”It feels great! It’s an honor to represent my home country in the Olympic games. Despite which professional sport you play, the Olympic games are a dream and everybody hopes to achieve that. Feels good to be preparing towards the tournament”
The national team for the big tournaments are usually selected the way that the head coach personally gives a call to each player that has been taken in the roster. For Björninen the call came on an ordinary day.
”I think it was at noon, some day off duty, when the call came. Obviously it felt amazing to know that I had been selected to the team.”
As mentioned, there are many players going to the Olympics from Jokerit. Brian O’Neill gets to represent the United States, David Sklenicka plays for Czechia and among Björninen also Marko Anttila, Iiro Pakarinen, Niklas Friman and Petteri Lindbohm are participating in the blue and white. The centerman tells that such number tells good things about the Helsinki team.
”Definitely that our team has many high quality players and the team overall is good. We have talentes from varous nationalities. We are a good blend of gifted players.”
The Olympic games are held in the Chinese capital Beijing and as the covid pandemic is still upon us and the restricions and quarantine talks are out there, but Björninen takes it all calmly.
”First of all I feel proud to represent Finland in the Olympics. The games can be a once in a lifetime opportunity and unique sport even. That’s what’s mainly on my mind.”
When asked about his latest insight about the game of ice hockey, Björninen comes up with a discovery about the every day routines.
”That’s a good question! Maybe the fact that especially here in the KHL in the autumn the game schedule was very tight, so uniqueness of the game day got highlighted. As a sportsman you need to be able to get the best effort out of yourself on the game days as they’re special days”.
”Practices and training are still an important part of the hockey life, but the games are always the moments to show what you’re capable of. It has become clearer here in the KHL.”
Björninen was a part of the Finnish team in last year’s World Championships in Riga, Latvia. He formed an efficient line with Saku Mäenalanen and Anttila, who both are also in the roster for the Olympics. Also the whole Salavat Yulaev line formed by Markus Granlund, Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen is onboard.
”It’s nice to have familiar guys on the team. The strenght of Finland’s national team and even the Finns as people is that we know each other very well and the way we work together is common to everybody. It’s simple and clear for all of us, especially in such quick tournaments as the Olympic tournament is.”
Björninen, who was born in October 1995, is the youngest member of team Finland in these Olympic games.
”As I said, many of us know each other and we’ve been playing togetherr with many of the guys in the team. It’s definitely a good thing.
Being a team without really young players doesn’t get a big reaction out of the trustworthy Jokerit guy. He realizes that there are many more important things there than age.
”Experience always has it’s own meaning. In such big tournaments experience is needed, but I don’t see it as a question about age. In a team like this it doesn’t matter how old the players are. We’re all professional top-level athletes and looking into somebody’s age isn’t valid there.”
When Björninen is asked to think of the moment, when he is sitting on the seat of the airplane going back home after the Olympic tournament is over and what should’ve happened to make him feel satisfied, he answers the following.
”In general, playing ice hockey and being a sportsman, one shouldn’t go there with only the result in their mind, but to seek for the best possible performance and that one has been able to give it all out. The goal is to be on the best possible form on the toughest moment. The outcome will be good, if we’re able to achieve this as individuals and as a team.”