JARKKO: THIS SEASON

by Ron Spence

Jarkko returns to Vancouver tomorrow night.

With him playing in the East, many Vancouver fans have lost touch with his play and antics. Our previous post documented his years in Pittsburgh.

This post is a compilation of bits and pieces that describe what has been happening this season – so far.

The first article was written by Heikki Miettinen of the  HELSINGIN SANOMAT, and includes an interview with him, and a description of his play against his old team, the Penguins.

“Just say the name Jarkko Ruutu and you will get some kind of an opinion from any person who knows anything about ice hockey.

Ruutu, 33, evokes emotions across the spectrum.
In the NHL he enjoys the sort of popularity normally associated with established superstars, but back in Finland it often seems that the small-time critics merely settle for fulminating about his bullish antics.
“All sorts of things have happened along the way”, Ruutu says in Stockholm’s Globen ice hockey arena, where his present team Ottawa Senators played two games in the NHL season-opening series against his former team-mates at the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend.
“At least I have provided the folks with circus entertainment; given them something to talk about.”

In the Ottawa Senators dressing room Ruutu’s popularity becomes evident. American, Canadian, and Swedish reporters swarm about him. Dany Heatley and the rest of the team’s superstars are let off with less media hassle.
Ruutu, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins roster for the previous two seasons, switched to the Ottawa Senators for this winter.
“Jarkko was not utilised to his full potential in Pittsburgh. I can therefore understand his decision to leave”, Rob Rossi says.
Rossi follows the Penguins’ undertakings and writes about them for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review daily.
“The fans loved him and chanted his name in the matches. The fans also loved Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,” Rossi points out.

Ruutu spent his first NHL years with the Canucks in Vancouver. He played for them between 1999 and 2006, albeit with a break in the middle back home with his old club HIFK Helsinki while the NHL lockout was going on.

The transition to Pittsburgh in July 2006 was a leap into the unknown.
The difference between a beautiful coastal city in Western Canada and an inland steel industry centre in the United States was always going to be huge.
“I have always made up my own mind as to where to go next”, Ruutu points out. “I figured it would be a drastic change of environment, but the move also had potential. Malkin was there, as were Crosby and Jordan Staal.”

The switch from Pittsburgh to Ottawa Ruutu describes as a return to home.
“In the new package, this was the best alternative. In Canada ice hockey is still a religion.”
Pittsburgh head coach Michel Therrien gave Ruutu only limited opportunities to show what he can do.

Ruutu trusts that Ottawa’s Craig Hartsburg will be slightly more generous when it comes to time on the ice.

For a coach, hiring Ruutu is easy. What you see is what you get.
If you think you have just acquired a star centre forward capable of scoring 40 times in a season, you may instead unwrap the package to find a 20-goal “primadonna”, whose failures eat into the team spirit.
With Ruutu things are different. He tackles, checks, fouls, confuses, and messes up the opposing team’s play, but what is important he always gives at least 100 per cent.
And he never complains.

Pittsburgh stars Crosby and Malkin will do well keeping their heads up in Stockholm and also later on in the season for Ruutu’s tackles.
“Tackling them isn’t easy, as they are always alert”, Ruutu says of his former teammates.
“Publicly many teams have announced that they would welcome me because of my character, and because of how I behave in and outside the rink.”

“I know only one way of doing this job and I do it full on. At times I may go somewhat over the top, as I try so hard”, Ruutu explains.

Perhaps that tackle on Jaromir Jagr in the Torino Olympics in 2006 was one such over-the-top incident?
“I can still watch it all on video. There is nothing to it. I tackle him head-on. He just isn’t awake”, Ruutu comments on the incident that once again nearly became the topic of a Parliamentary hearing in Finland.
“It caused a stir because he is a star player”, Ruutu says of Jagr, who received a nasty cut to the forehead in the process, while Ruutu got 5+20, a game misconduct penalty, and an early shower.

“Who would have believed it? My ninth season in the NHL just getting started. So many times I have been told I’m washed up, but my faith has never wavered. And I have enjoyed some terrific times in the process.”

The Finnish article was written on October 5, 2008 and Chris Stevenson of SLAM, wrote another Jarkko piece on October 11:

The Pizza Line just got some spice.

“(Ruutu’s) strong. I think a lot of what our line wants to do, with or without Alfie, was to create a lot of chances in the zone off the cycle and from down low. Roots is one of the best at playing down low,” said Heatley. “He’s strong on the boards and can make plays off the wall. That’s definitely going to be the game plan with Roots.”

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said he wants Ruutu to stick within his skill set. Bump and grind, get in people’s faces. He did a great job of that in Stockholm against the Pittsburgh Penguins, giving Sidney Crosby a pretty good crunch behind the net and a facewash in a wrestling match in front of the benches. Crosby looked sour and frustrated for the rest of the day.

“Whatever line you put Ruutu on, he is going to play the same,” said Hartsburg. “He is going to bring his game. He’s a very intelligent player as far as the team game and the systems and winning loose puck battles and doing smart things with the puck. I think he’ll feel comfortable going there. It won’t bother him to go there. He’ll go help those two guys.

“He’ll be the same Ruutu whether he’s playing on the third or fourth line. He’ll do the job.”

Talking in Sweden to people with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ruutu’s old team before signing with the Senators, a couple of them said Ruutu’s antics cast a long shadow, one that can obscure his puck talents.

“He’s got more skill than people give him credit for,” said Penguins winger Matt Cooke, a teammate of Ruutu’s with the Vancouver Canucks. “But sometimes he lets his emotions get the better of him and the skill can’t come out.”

*************************************************************

Jarkko was in the news by October 28 – although it wasn’t his fault an it didn’t happen on the ice.

“Caught on tape was a hallway altercation between Sabres forward Adam Mair and Ottawa forward Jarkko Ruutu which may draw the attention of the commissioner’s prefect of discipline, Colin Campbell.

Mair, ejected after an on-ice melee involving several members of both teams, took a walk, in full gear, down the hallway to the entrance of the Senators locker room. He was reportedly looking for Chris Neil but instead got into a verbal altercation with Ruutu, who chose to answer Muir’s call at the locker room door in Neil’s place. At one point Mair grabbed the Finn by his undershirt but a quick-thinking member of the Senators PR staff stepped between the two and separated them.”

*********************************************

Then a couple of weeks later, he was again in the news:

TORONTO [November 12, 2008] — Ottawa Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu was suspended for two games without pay by the NHL on Wednesday for catching Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre with an elbow.

Ruutu received a two-minute penalty for charging in the third period of the Canadiens’ 4-0 win Tuesday night. He will forfeit almost $14,000 in salary and will sit out a home-and-home series….”

“[We’re] disappointed that it is two games, but obviously the NHL has set a very high standard for a hit like this, that I felt deflected off the shoulder to the head. Especially for a player with no history of suspensions, no history of even being called in front of the league,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray said in a statement.

Jarkko’s response?

“Well obviously, it is what it is, and I have to live with it,” Ruutu said in a release. “Like I said, I had no intention to do it, but accidents will happen and I’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

**********************************************

Ottawa is having a poor season, but Jarkko has been one of their bright spots.

In one game, coach Hartsburg said: “It’s frustrating, disappointing. You can’t hide it or try to disguise it, it was poor. There were some guys like (Chris) Neil and (Jarkko) Ruutu that tried to do something about the game. We didn’t have enough.”

**************************************************

Jarkko can blindside you – even when he’s not on the ice.

He recently told Don Brennan that he’d like to wrestle reptiles.

“I’d want to be a crocodile hunter, like (the late) Steve Irwin,” Ruutu revealed. “But I don’t think I have the balls for it. It’s interesting, all the energy (Irwin) had. The stuff he was doing and he was so excited about it.”

Ruutu, who hates heights but thoroughly enjoyed the two-metre-long constrictor he owned for seven years, claims to also have a lot of energy.

“I’m kind of like an adrenaline junkie,” he said.

“It keeps me alive.”

As for the image he portrays?

Ruutu smiled and said: “A lot of people think I am screwed up … but I am.”

jarkkoruutucourtesy of talk-sports.net

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JARKKO ON SEAN AVERY

“It wasn’t a surprise,” said Senators winger Jarkko Ruutu. “If you want people to respect you off the ice, you better behave off the ice. Stuff that happens on the ice, stays on the ice. I think that’s been the code forever. You’ve got to be smart with what you say. No one can dispute (he crossed the line).”

Ruutu said Avery was just striving for attention.

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