When Lighting’s starting netminder, Shemmy Odrobny, got injured during a preseason friendly, Pete Russell moved quickly to bring in Miika Wiikman, a known quantity to fans of the Elite League, as he played the previous two seasons with Nottingham Panthers. A quick look at Wiikman’s Elite Prospects page shows that he has been lucky enough to play hockey across the world, in Finland, North America and Slovakia, as well as the UK.
How were you still available at to cover for injury? “Panthers didn’t want to keep me”, he said. “I would have loved to stay there, in Nottingham. I had no offers after the season ended, and nothing in the Summer. Pete called to see if I wanted to come and play in Milton Keynes and I thought, why not? I came here for six weeks to cover for Shemmy. I love it here in the UK. I had two great years in Nottingham and it was just a decent decision to come back.” He continued, “I didn’t know anyone on this team, although I’ve played against some of them, but I just wanted to play hockey again.”
In terms of experience, you’ve played in the league for two years now, so what can you offer a team hasn’t? He explained, “I’ve played against these teams, which means I’m one of the most experienced guys on the team. I think I am pretty calm out there, so hopefully I calm the guys down a bit. We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played in this league before, and I’m helping them make that transition.”
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to be a goalie, when there are fewer team spots, and arguably a lot more responsibility. What made you make the decision to move into goal? “Everyone tried it when we were young and I thought it was fun, you know making glove saves. I guess I just was the best at it on our team. It was the best thing I knew when I was a kid.”
Was it your intention to use hockey to travel the world? Wiikman laughed “It’s just destiny. You never know what is going to happen in this profession. when I moved to Finland and played there for four years, I thought might get stuck there. Then I moved to North America and tried to make the NHL but I failed. I got close with three seasons in the AHL, then went back to Finland. You just never know how things are going to go.”
On the ice, the team are looking good at the moment, what is our secret to winning? “It’s not a secret, it’s just hard work. We play smart, we’ve got a good defence and that can take you a long way.”
With Wiikman being here initially on a six week contract, the conversation turned to the possibilities of life after hockey. He said, “If I can’t continue here I’d hope that someone else picks me up, or I will have to retire. I can’t wait all season for a contract! I’ll have to get a job, make money, somehow. I’ll take anything! I’m not old, but I can’t wait for too long, I’ve got a wife and two kids back home, so I’ve got to support them!”