”It sure is fun and a new experience for me. I didn’t expect it, because I’d say that such All Star games are usually for a bit more skillful players than what I am. All in all, I’ll take it.”
Over two meters tall forward is a noticeable character in the Helsinki team, but is not probably mostly know for his puck-handling skills.
”I have had a big role in the team as I’ve been given the captain role and play many years in Jokerit. Maybe there’s something there. Maybe people remember me from something then. At least from that I give my everything on the ice. Teamwork is my thing and not particularly the circus tricks. It’s nice to get this kind of honor, even though it probably doesn’t always show on the ice the way that is thought to be All Star-like hockey”, Anttila thinks.
All Star events are commonly know for their game part, but also different kinds of skill competitions. That is the part Anttila is looking for with excitement.
”At least I always try. It will be interesting to see, what kind of skill competitions are there and if I get selected to them. I doubt that there will be competitions about forechecking or playing short-handed. I will try to come up with some tricks, if I get to showcase them. I have some stuff in my mind and Teemu Turunen is here next to me, so he will teach me something, if needed.”
A big man can possibly do big man things, so it will be seen, what Jokerit captain brings to the ice in January.
”We will see, what the competition is, if I get to participate in some. Maybe I could do something on a penalty shootout, but we will see, if I get to try that. At least my long stick works well as a lever in a slapshot. It could come in handy”, says Anttila.
The KHL team Traktor plays their home games in Chelyabinsk and the arena there gets a positive feedback from Jokerit captain. The city is not bad either.
”The arena is quite alright. In KHL in general every rink is in good shape. This one is clearly above average. For the game the environment should be good. The city itself is a nice Russian city. Our new guy Vitali Menshikov is from there, so he gave me tips about a few good restaurants and stuff. We will see what kind of an event it will be. It is a bit unclear for me as well at this point.”
If it was not him or O’Neill to go to the All Star event, Anttila would pick at least one of his talented team mates to join in.
”Perhaps Iiro Pakarinen could be a good one for this. He is a good skater, heck of a wristshot and slapshot and also has a few tricks for penalty shootouts. He is an overall package. Our teamwork is our strenght. We probably do not have the most skilled players, but for sure our guys can score as well”, the captain mentions.
Jokerit is at the top of the western conference as the regular season comes towards its half way. The Helsinki team has not made themselves known for virtuoso individuals, but the effort of the whole team. The captain still does not claim things are perfect yet.
”There is always room for improvement. In the areas of game that are expected from me, have been going well. Our penalty killing is at the top of the statistics in the whole league and also in that we could do things even better. As almost every season, I could be more efficient. I sure have had the chances to score more. I have been able to put up my regular numbers, but I guess I expect a bit more from myself in that field”.
Jokerit has made it to the playoffs many times in the KHL, but the true success has not yet come for them. This year the team is again prepared for a good run for the rest of the season.
”It has been our problem that our game has peaked before the playoffs. We have been talking about it and we aim for improvement every year. We have not been playing poorly every spring, but it has not been enough. Now our material is a bit more gritty, which will be needed. The playoffs are about tough battles and defensive game, so we need to be ready for that”, Anttila concludes.