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Finnish forward Joonas Oden aspires to join the NHL’s Seattle expansion team

Joe De Falco   ·   13 janvier 2020
19-year-old Finnish forward Joonas Oden is a name you may recall from this year's World Juniors competition.

During Finland’s quarterfinals battle with Team USA, Oden’s third period goal would inevitably lift Team Finland over Team USA with a 1-0 win, advancing them to the next round.

Oden would be named Player of the Game.

While Oden lives in Finland, and currently plays for KooKoo of the Liiga, the country’s top league, he was originally born in Washington state, and spent the better part of his childhood in Spokane, WA.

QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
image
What species of fish is not found in Canadian waters?
CLOWN FISH
EEL
STURGEON
TROUT


Oden, who is an avid Colorado Avalanche fan, could barely contain his excitement when he learned that his home state would be obtaining an NHL franchise.

"I was like, 'Yo, I was born there.’ That would be sick to play there, back to Seattle, back to Washington.”

He recalled Washington state quite fondly;

"I remember Spokane Valley, where we lived," Joonas said. "It was beautiful."

His time in Washington would be cut short though. At the age of 12, his parents divorced and Joonas, his younger brother Markus and their mother left the U.S. and moved to Haukipudas, a town of 19,000 near Oulu.

As they settled into their new life in Europe and the vacation aspects of a new place came to an end, Oden faced some hardships adjusting to life in Finland, primarily because he did not speak Finnish.

Between the struggles of spending his formidable teenage years in a foreign country and the monetary hang ups of a single parent raising two young boys on a shoestring budget, life in Finland was far from ideal.

"To be honest, me and my brother didn't really like it and we wanted to go back [to Washington.]”

Joonas and his mother both recall hockey being his saving grace.

Because the move was such a big disruption in her sons' lives, Minna Hakala-Oden vowed to keep her boys involved in hockey, no matter the cost.

"They lost their friends, they lost their homeland, they lost their language, they lost their dad, everything," she said of the divorce. "But hockey -- I love hockey myself, and I see the passion in their eyes when they play. I see that they can make friends. Hockey people are like family, so that was important for me to keep them there."

Joonas’ mom did exactly as she said, keeping her boys in the sport.



In addition to her job as a nurse, Hakala-Oden would sometimes work as many as four part-time jobs to keep food on the table and her boys on the ice.

Joonas recalled times as a young hockey player;

"I remember we couldn't buy sticks all the time when they broke. Some people helped us out; we got discounts from the store, and that helped. I remember using my teammates' [old] gear. I just got rid of a chest protector I had been using for two years."

The sacrifices made by his mother haven’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the young forward.

"There's no words that I can explain. I'm really proud of her," he said. "I'll take her as a role model, as a parent. I think she's very proud of me and happy because she knows that she didn't work for no reason."

Though Joonas was eligible for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the young forward was not selected to play at the NHL level.

Heading into this year's draft, Oden has been classified as a C level skater, which makes him likely to be drafted between the 4th and 6th rounds.

His hope is to be drafted into the world's greatest hockey league, and land on his skates, back home, in Seattle.

SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON
QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
image
What species of fish is not found in Canadian waters?
CLOWN FISH
EEL
STURGEON
TROUT
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON