With Henrik Vesalainen, the Hockey Punks for the Lithuanian championship strengthened.
On sunday, the ice hockey championship will also start in Lithuania. As in the previous year, four teams compete for the title: Without Champion Elektrenaj. The club had withdrawn its team from the championship two days before the first game, without any reason. That’s why Kaunas Hockey, Gelezinis Vilkas, Hockey Punks and HC Klaipeda will participate in this year’s championship. The Punks brought a prominent name to the team. Henrik Vesalainen, the older brother of Kristian Vesalainen, who was drafted in 2017 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
His careeer started the 24-year-old Finnish Defender at his home club HIFK Helsinki in the U16 team. In the 2011-12 season he alternately played in the U17 and U18 team of Kiekko-Vantaa before returning to HIFK again. At HIFK Henrik played two years in the U18 and U20 team. After these two seasons, he get the chance to play for the U20 team of KHL team “Jokerit Helsinki”. However, after just one season ended and only four years later, Henrik returns to the ice again. He took the opportunity to play in the Lithuanian capital club, the Hockey Punks. The Hockey Punks reached the final after a very successful season, but had against series champion Elektrenaj the loss.
The very likable Finn was available for an interview about his career, motivations and background information:
Baltics Media: Hello Henrik, first thank you for your time, which you have taken for this talk. The reason for this interview is your comeback after 4 years, please give us a little personal review of the past, why you stopped hockey, your last team was Jokerit and maybe you was stand before the next step in your carrier.
Henrik Vesalainen: “I started playing hockey when I was 5 years old. My first team was HIFK from Helsinki, and I played there for almost 15 years. During 2013-2014, I played my first season in the U20 team with HIFK – that was also the last season with HIFK. After that season I switched to HIFK’s rivalry team Jokerit, where I played another season in the Finnish U20 league. During that season I graduated from Mäkelänrinne Sports High School, and my next plan was to play and study the next 4 years in the United States. After our season ended with Jokerit, I flew to Boston to participate to a showcase tournament where there was a lot of team scouts from different NCAA1 Colleges/ Universities. After the tournament, there was a couple of different schools that were interested of me and I ended up going to Western Michigan University for the Summer – and started to train with them. Unluckily the full scholarship which I wanted didn’t happen, and after that Summer I kind of lost my motivation to play hockey on a high level anymore. I moved back to Finland and decided to focus on getting to a Medical school after the Summer in Michigan. And eventually ended up getting in to Vilnius University the next Autumn. I’m now a fourth-year Med student here in Vilnius, so half way through the studies and I’m planning to graduate in 2022. This Summer I was contacted by the Vilnius Hockey Punks team and decided that this year would be the perfect time to start playing for fun again as I now have a bit more free-time from school to actually do some other activities as well.”
BM: About your comback you said – what you miss definitly in the hockey flair, etc…what was the best point for you.
HV: “I definitely miss the game days! And being on the ice with your teammates and fooling around in the locker-room. The peak in my hockey career must’ve been when we won the bronze medal in the Finnish U18 league with HIFK.”
BM: Is your comeback maybe a restart for a “new” carrier, or is it only “I like to play hockey”?
HV: “I’m not planning to make a proper comeback – for me it’s just really nice to be able to play hockey again, be on the ice and share some locker-room jokes with the guys.”
BM: The Vilnius Hockey Punks, will play in the lithuanian national hockey League, did had a very good last season. There are only 4 teams in the league, what you think about, there are also some good players in the teams.
HV: “I don’t have that good view of the level here in Lithuania, I have only seen couple of game clips from YouTube so it’s gonna be fun and interesting to see what’s the level in here.”
BM: What is your impression of the new team and do you know your new collegues?
HV: “I haven’t met my teammates yet but I’m really excited to meet them!”
BM: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia plans to make Hockey more popular in this countries with the international “Baltic League” with 8 Teams, to give the players an “international flair”. What you think about this idea, the will start october/november 2019.
HV: “It’s a really cool idea. I’m sure there will be a lot of good teams and players and it’s always nice to play against new teams. Also, it’s cool to see different cities and cultures at the same time.”
BM: What your personality goals for the future, play more furter years and maybe a position in Hockey as Coach, Referee, etc.
HV: “I don’t specifically have any real goals in hockey except to keep playing as long as it feels like fun and my body can handle it. Of course, it would be really nice to win the Lithuanian league or the Baltic league, but we will see how that goes. I just try to enjoy the game.”
BM: Henrik, thank you for your time and a successful, injury free season, and all the best for your hockey-life.