Sami, this is going to be your first season in another European country. Are you excited about this new experience?
Yeah, I’m excited. I played couple of seasons in North America but this will be my first season in Europe besides Finland. It’s gonna be a little bit different, but I think hockey will be pretty much the same. I just need to catch the puck and thats it. (smile)
What happened that you decided to make such a big change in your carreer and go to the Czech Extraleague?
I had a couple of options, but when I heard I have a chance to come over here I pretty much right away decided I want to come here. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the city and the team. Sparta is really good, has a great history and I really want to be part of that. I’m also looking forward to Sparta fans.
You also know Sparta as an opposing team in the Champions Hockey League…
Yeah, we played couple of games against Sparta with Kärpät Oulu last two years. First year we won and last year we lost. Those were good games and I saw that Sparta is really good. That also helped me to pick this team.
Did you look around the city of Prague when you were for the CHL game?
We had one day when we went to the downtown. So I know something, but not too much, we had only couple of hours. I’m still kinda lost when I go outside. Luckily there are so much information on the internet so I have to look everything up. It’s gonna help a lot. I’ve heard so many good things about the city.
And also about the Czech beer?
Yeah, that it’s gonna be cheap and everybody says it’s gonna be good. That’s never bad thing. (smile)
Do you have some specific expectations from the Czech Extraleague?
What I know about the Czech Extraleague is that it‘s a little bit different than Finnish league. I think in Finland we defend a little bit more. Here is a bit more offence. But I don’t think it will be a big adjust to come over. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be fine.
Are you, as a goalie, looking forward to the more offensive style of ice hockey in the Czech Republic?
It kinda depends what type of players I will be facing. But I definitely like when I get a lot of shots. In Finland my average was like 14 to 20 saves in the game. That’s not too many shots. I like when the game is in our end and it is fast paced game. That’s what I’m looking for.
Have you ever played in the same team with some Czech hockey players?
In America I had a goalie partner Roman Will who is currently playing in Liberec. And in Kärpät we had Ivan Huml. He played there for very long time. These two I remember right away.
Are you coming to Prague with family or alone?
I’m coming here by myself at the beginning because my girlfriend is at school so she can’t come over right away. But the travelling isn’t gonna be that hard, there are many flights every day. And maybe at the end of the year she will have a chance to come over for the rest of the season.
Is there something you are little bit worried about? For example the language?
I’m not too worried about it. I know that I don’t understand a word in Czech so I might need to take some lessons and try to learn at least a little bit. And I think on the ice we will get the language we will all understand.
Sparta is one of the most famous and successful teams in the Czech Republic. Every season fans have high expectations from the team. Are you ready for this high anticipated position?
I’m not gonna take too much pressure from that. I know that fans always expect we are gonna win, but you can’t take too much pressure out of it. Just gonna do your own thing, do what you do best.
So you are typical Finnish goalie. Like calm, ice cold…
Sometimes, but then I have the firestart also. On the ice I try to be really calm. But then obviously after some losses I can be pretty angry. I don’t want to lose because I hate losing. That’s something what grew in me when I played in North America. I really learned that winning is everything.
You was young when you played in North America. What else did you learn and get there?
I got a lot. I was only nineteen when I went there and moved all across the world. I grew up there a little bit faster of course. I think you can’t be completely ready for that big change, but still day after day I learned things. I knew the language and that helped me a lot. And also all the teammates. They helped me when I needed something.
What about your experience in NHL? Could you tell us more about it? It must be really a big thing for you…
Obviously yes, this was the dream come true. I am still thinking about going back there, but I know that’s not gonna be easy. That’s the biggest thing I’m working on every day. But now I am here in Prague and I focus on Sparta. Although someday I would like to go back and play in the NHL.
And what about your summer break? When will you join the team for stay here?
Now I’m in Prague only for one week. Then I’m gonna fly back to Finland for the individual practice and I will come back for the ice in the middle of July.
Sami Aittokallio with goalie coach Petr Přikryl and goalie partner David Honzík