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Getting To Know: Defenseman #20 Uula Ruikka

By Chicago Steel, 04/17/20, 3:00PM CDT

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Growing up in Finland, how are the teams organized when you start to play hockey?

It basically goes that you play for the team that is located in your city so you’re not moving anywhere, you’re just staying with your local team. Especially, if you’re in Oulu (where I’m from), we’ve got three different teams that you can join. Right before you join the team you play a lot of outdoor hockey because we’ve got the cold winters. We don’t really have any school teams.

When did you start to think coming over to North America was a possibility?

I was pretty young, probably around 14 or 15. I heard about the NCAA and USHL and I thought that would be a good trip to make for me. Obviously you’ll get the lifetime experience out of it so I thought that would also be good.

Were your parents able to visit during your two years in the USHL?

This year they didn’t make it so that was kind of sad but last year they came out around Halloween time and they told me it was great to see the USHL too.

When you started playing in North America, did you have any ideas of what it was going to be like?

I feel like I didn’t really have any expectations, I left with a pretty open mind. Obviously I was struggling with the language at the beginning, I thought that I knew English but it turned out that I really didn’t so that was a shock, especially on the ice when the coaches were yelling, I didn’t understand any words. After a few months it got a lot better.

Did you have any influences that had taken the same route and helped you transition?

I had a couple friends who went to the USHL too. The older one is Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi, he actually plays for University of Maine now, he played for Dubuque for one season. The other is Matias Maccelli who played in Dubuque last season too. We’re really good friends so he told me everything. My advisor knows someone who played in the USHL and he told me only good things about it.

Individually, you had a solid offensive season. Were you trying to get more of the offensive side into your game this year?

Not really because in the beginning of the year, you think a little more about points but as the season gets going it doesn’t really matter. It’s just all about the wins and we were trying to get as many wins as we could. Points didn’t really matter to me.

This year’s team had so much success, what were some factors that led to that?

I feel like we had so many talented players, that’s probably the biggest reason. Everyone had good team spirit, we all came along with each other. Everyone just wanted to learn every day when we came to the rink and everybody gave their best.

Victor Ostman and Elis Hede were the other players from overseas on the team this year, were you able to guide them in their first seasons?

If they needed any help I helped them, Victor lived with me so we were talking a lot every day. Elis is also from Finland so we get along with each other pretty well. I tried to help him because I was in that situation last year and I knew what he had to go through so I kind of knew what to tell him.