The kid looks like your next door neighbor’s son mowing the lawn or roller blading in the cul-de-sac. He speaks quietly and humbly about his new job. His demeanor is calm and serious belying soft features and facial expressions scattered with hints of youthful acne. His team was down 1-0 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final when he unleashed the tying goal, and set up the winning shot on beautiful touch pass off a turnover. This wasn’t Toews, Kane, Hossa, or Sharp rescuing the Blackhawks from a deserved Game 1 loss. At 20 years old Teuvo Teravainen walked onto hockey’s biggest stage and demonstrated a Finnish, icy cool that sent shivers through Amalie Arena, rocked the Tampa Bay Lightning, and rescued the vaunted Chicago Blackhawks.
Blackhawks’ fans have been teased by Teravainen’s potential all season long. At 5’11” and 169 pounds his 2014-2015 regular season was up and down as he spent much of his TOI getting up from being knocked down. In between, however, he has shredded blue lines with grace and skill. He brought United Center crowds to their feet numerous times with uncanny vision and a long, flowing shot.
Chicago drafted Teravainen in the 18th spot of the 2012 NHL Draft. Stan Bowman was thrilled that he was still on the board.
“He’s a dynamic offensive player. He has great hands. He’s got the ability to make plays. He’s a gifted offensive player. The talent that you can get at that level picking at the 18th spot was pretty impressive,” said Bowman at the time.
“Teravainen has great vision, and a desire to control the puck,” McGuire said. “He has poise with the puck in traffic. Brassard has a career high 60 points this season, and I could see Teravainen putting up numbers like that as soon as gets stronger.”
The transition from European to North American hockey can be as harsh as a Finnish (or Chicago) winter. Teravainen’s family employed the services of Acme World Sports owned by Markhus Lehto, also a native Finn. Lehto described the culture shock that players experience:
“In Finland growing up, especially athletes, it’s usually the team, it’s the coaches, the management, it’s society taking care of you,” Lehto said. “Everything is so micromanaged in Finland with these teams. When they get to North America, they’re free to set up their own schedules. It’s a different thing.
“… A lot of these European guys don’t realize until they get here, this culture, this society, the car is kind of a necessity to get around. It’s teaching them to understand differences in culture. To understand, this is the way it is. It’s not going to change. Don’t try to fight against it.”
All the accolades and the hype can’t protect a young a prospect from the cruel conclusions of a Joel Quenneville or the bruising nights in the AHL. Bowman waited and Quenneville scratched. Teuvo was sent to the Rockford Ice Hogs, and back to Chicago. Rockford, Illinois may be two hours away from Chicago, but it might as well be Europe. Along his journey to the NHL Teravainen has shown moments of frustration. Back in November he watched the call-ups go back and forth and his number wasn’t being called.
“I just try to play here [in Rockford],” Teravainen said, per ESPN Chicago. “I know it’s pretty hard playing here. It’s different hockey. It’s not my type of hockey maybe, AHL hockey. I think there’s a difference with NHL hockey and AHL hockey. I’m just trying to do my job here and play my best.”
Toward the end of the regular season things seemed to loosen up for Teravainen on the ice and off the ice. The Blackhawks take an annual “Dad’s Trip” out west. This year Teravainen’s father, and newly acquired Kimo Timmonen played complementing roles for Teuvo.
“He’s a great guy,” Teravainen said. “He has so much experience. We just had the dad’s trip, so I felt like I had two dads on the trip. I had my own dad and my hockey dad.”
Closer and closer. Teravainen only scored 4 goals with 5 assists on the season in 34 games; but any shrewd Blackhawks fan knows they are looking at the future. When Patrick Kane went down and the trade deadline loomed Teravainen’s name popped up in discussions around the league. Stan Bowman said “no.” Tampa Bay is going to spend a lot of precious minutes tracking Kane and Toews, but that’s just the opportunity that Teuvo Teravainen has been waiting for since slicing and dicing his way through Finland and the World Junior Championships. It’s Teuvo Time in Chicago, and Blackhawks fans are more than willing to bring another 20-year old along for the party.