Patrick Laine left Finland to go play in the National Hockey League in the autumn of 2016. Many wondered how he would cope so far away from home at the age of 18 and with his limited ability to speak English.
For Patrick playing in the NHL was an obvious decision. In his eyes you could see a sense of self-determination. That kind of self-determination comes from inside oneself and when you look Patrick in the eyes you can see he wants to be the best team player in ice hockey. He knows what he is capable of and what he needs to work on. So he didn’t go to the NHL to learn how to play ice hockey – he went there to prove himself.
Patrick never came through an academy. Neither did Finnish legends Teemu Selänne and Jari Litmanen. They all love a particular sport, which eventually became their professions. They were boys from small communities who looked after them. In comparison to Patrick however, Litmanen and Selänne didn’t move abroad until the age of 22.
One thing that ties these three athletes together is their strong loyalty and ties to their local communities. Each of them had plenty of ego when they left home. But it’s difficult to imagine that either of them would have become the same athletes had they played in academies under immense pressure and expectation. Instead their clubs, coaches, teammates and their respective communities helped them become stars. But it’s fair to say they were already stars when they left Finland.
Strength is not speed and speed is not strength
Fitness training has been taken to the extreme in the modern era. Athletes are being tested to the limits of sprinters and weight lifters while encouraged to do yoga as well. Patrick on the other hand is not so strong despite his large physique. How can it then be that he has the second most powerful shot in the NHL?
We spend too much time focussing on the amount of muscles athletes have. In Patrick’s case, the eye and arms are important.
Litmanen was not particularly strong but he was considered the quickest player at Ajax in under 10 metre sprints. Selänne on the other hand was a bit of everything.
Thanks for the pass
It’s nice to notice how Patrick reacts to every goal he scores. He hugs and thanks his teammates for the pass each time he scores, just like Selänne and Litmanen did during their careeers. Patrick hugs because he has been hugged. He thanks because he has been taught well.
So it would be strange to see him celebrate energetically on his own even for a moment before thanking his teammates. His team are his family. That’s how it’s been always been for him. Before leaving home he played in one team only, just as Litmanen and Selänne had done.
Why should any athlete be pushed into an institution to develop – a place where they are watched and tested to their limits? The problem is us humans. This is a poor way of understanding a number of things in life.
But in sport the result is everything. Coaches doesn’t want to lose. Fathers don’t want to lose and players don’t like losing.
But even if a person waited patiently for good results and fully understands the beauty of the sport, money doesn’t wait. Money disappears quickly if good results don’t come along.
At least humans appreciate stories and good stories are good examples. They are often retold and passed along to others. Good stories can change peoples’ minds and their behaviour.
Patrick’s story is an interesting one because it’s a story about a man who cannot be without his mother. When he left home for Canada his mother moved with him.
When he returns from an away game his mother is waiting for him. When he wakes up in the morning his mother is making him breakfast. And when he’s messing around his mother is there to get him back on track.
The value of having your mother by your side is incomparable to being raised by an academy or anybody else. Academies were initially created for soldiers. And their last words in life are usually cries for their mothers, not for their academies.