SPORTS

After trade to Blues, NHL veteran Olli Jokinen raves about playing in Toronto

03/06/2015 05:31 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Olli Jokinen says he didn't mind playing in Toronto. He'll get at least one more chance.

Jokinen, who played six games for the Maple Leafs between trades, will make his St. Louis Blues debut at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night. Reflecting on his time with the Leafs, the 36-year-old veteran had nothing but good things to say about the organization that employed him for just over two weeks.

"It was amazing to see in two weeks: Everything is first-class. It's actually a great place to play," Jokinen said Friday in the visiting locker-room.

Jokinen raved about the hot tubs, cold tubs and saunas — built-in ones — and the hot breakfast and lunch players got every single day. He spoke highly of how team staff treated him.

"Everybody says it's like the New York Yankees in baseball playing in Toronto," he said. "I liked the two weeks. I don't know why the free agents don't want to sign here."

Jokinen, on his 10th NHL team following stints with the Kings, Islanders, Panthers, Coyotes, Flames, Rangers, Jets and this season the Predators and Leafs, wondered if it was because of the bright media spotlight. But he didn't mind.

Perhaps that's because he didn't really care what was said or written about him — a contrast from what he sees in other players.

"The guys have tendencies when things go well, they like to go read stuff about themselves," Jokinen said. "They get in this cycle that they have to read about themselves all the time. But one (piece of) advice for the players that play in a Canadian market, or any market: At the end of the day, all that matters is what the coaches say, management says and your teammates. That's it. And your wife. I think that's all you need to do."

Jokinen's new coach, Ken Hitchcock, was positive in his assessment of the Finnish veteran. Jokinen will start on a line with Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves in his St. Louis debut and give the Blues a different look.

"He's got size, he's got awareness, he's a good fit for us," Hitchcock said. "Adding Olli in the lineup, the visual on us is that we're a big team."

The Leafs gave Jokinen an opportunity to move back to his natural centre position after being used on wing and minimalized in Nashville. He had one assist in six games but did enough to show the Blues he could help.

Less than a week after being dealt from Toronto to St. Louis, Jokinen expressed appreciation to Leafs general manager Dave Nonis for trading him back to a contender before the deadline.

"A couple of weeks ago when I went there from Nashville, I talked to him on the phone and he was saying that he'll try to do everything possible to move me to a playoff team, and he was a man of his word," Jokinen said. "They could've done anything: They could've put me in the minors, they could've told me to stay home, 'We just ate your salary.' It was a very respectful move by Dave."

Notes — Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Blues against the Leafs. ... Injured defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Zbynek Michalek skated Friday but aren't ready to play yet.

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