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Among the Hurricanes' high-profile free agent retentions from last season was left winger Jussi Jokinen, who enjoyed a breakout performance as Carolina's clutch goal scorer as the six-seed team advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the eventual champion, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jokinen, a 26-year-old native of Kalajoki, Finland, talked to the Indy about lofty expectations and creative song interpretations.
Independent Weekly: First off, how was your summer? What kinds of things did you do?
Jussi Jokinen: About a month after the season ended, I had a minor shoulder surgery, so early June was spent rehabbing that. It's always a long season to be away from your friends and family, so I was hanging out with them a lot of the time, just trying to forget about hockey for one month and just relax. In late June or early July, I started my normal summer workout process. I was trying to have fun a little bit and get ready for the season.
After your performance in the playoffs, do you feel like the pressure is on you to produce more this year during the regular season?
It's myself who has the highest expectations. I'm always putting lots of pressure on myself to contribute and help the team win. Obviously, with the last couple of months I had last season, that helped my confidence a lot. I know I can change games for this team and in this league. I'm anxious to get started, to get a few games in.
What was it like, the first time the national anthem started and you heard the crowd yell, "Oh, say can 'JUSSI'?"
It was pretty cool. Standing there and you're so focused on the game, and then you hear that and then you get even more pumped up for the game. I hope they keep doing that.
The NHL has a really long, tough schedule. Does it take a different mentality to go out there every night for 82 games when Martin Brodeur is not in the net and it's not an elimination game?
It's a rough schedule. The Olympics are this year, so it's going to be even tighter. You play more games in a shorter period of time. But I think that's what the players love to do—it's one more week, and then the fun begins again.
Just out of curiosity ... what's going on in this picture? [A younger Jokinen wears a hot pink T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "So Sexy."]
That's my hometown [soccer] team. We got that team together in 2001—we were all like 17 or 18 years old. Someone came up with the design for that shirt. [...] We'd play soccer every June in this huge tournament in my hometown. I have fun with my childhood friends—it's a good time.
It looks like there's water in the background.
There's a sea right next to my hometown, so it's pretty cool in the summertime.
Were you pleased when those pictures hit the Internet?
When we took those pictures, I didn't think I was going to be playing in the NHL. I think I saw those pictures my rookie year in Dallas. During one morning skate, I had those pictures all over the locker room and the guys were making fun of me. But it's all right.
Did you come up with any more shootout moves over the summer?
We'll have to see.