Hawks waited all year for Teuvo Teravainen to flip the switch in the NHL, and the timing couldn’t have been better after he played hero in the Stanley Cup final.
Teuvo Teravainen’s real father, Timo, is a dentist in Helsinki. His surrogate father is a 40-year-old teammate Kimmo Timonen, and while the hockey world was fawning over Teravainen after Game 1, good old dad had a sobering message. “He’s got a long way to go,” Timonen said. “He’s a skinny guy, so he’s got to start lifting weights. I told him, ‘This summer you’ve got to make sure you work out.’ Golf is not a workout.” Gee, thanks, Dad. Teravainen’s father might be “far, far in Finland,” but that fatherly advice isn’t. As Teravainen makes his way in the world, he’s learning things might not be as easy as he would have thought. In 2013-14, when he led Finland to gold at the world juniors and finished with 44 points in the Finnish League, many thought Teravainen had the second-line center job in Chicago waiting for him. But he struggled.
He’ll never be considered big by NHL standards – he’s listed at 5-feet-11, 178 pounds – but his entire game wasn’t translating to success in North America. Rather than being a candidate for the Calder Trophy, Teravainen stalled in the AHL. It wasn’t easy for him this past season, right up to the Western Conference final when he was a healthy scratch.
But when it came time to save the Blackhawks in Game 1, Teravainen was there. He tied the score then set up the winner in a matter of 1:58. That’s not a lot of time to become an overnight success. But Teravainen’s emergence to that point was anything but a quick process. “I knew I would have to be patient,” he said. “I’m a young guy and I have to get stronger, of course. It was good to start in the AHL and get used to the size of the ice and the style of hockey. I finally got my chance, and I’m getting better all the time.” His teammates agree. They see a young man who is growing more comfortable playing in the NHL and adjusting to life in North America. It’s not as though Teravainen lacked maturity, though. When he showed up in North America for his first rookie camp in 2012, he stayed at the home of his former agent Bill Zito, now the assistant GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets. At the age of 18, Teravainen had the presence of mind to show up with stuffed animals as presents for Zito’s twin daughters. And before he came to the NHL, he had already played three full seasons in the SM-liiga, and was named rookie of the year before his 18th birthday. “He doesn’t have a heartbeat,” said teammate
Marian Hossa. “He’s so calm, he’s Finnish cold. Ice man.” With a cap crunch coming, the Blackhawks are going to need prospects like Teravainen to stay competitive. Centers Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette will likely be expendable because of his development. Teravainen, 20, comes from an athletic family. His parents both play floor ball, which is essentially indoor field hockey. His sister plays hockey and his younger brother Eero, a defenseman who turned 16 in March, played this season for Jokerit’s under-18 team and is eligible for the 2017 draft. This spring, Eero was drafted 65th overall in the USHL draft by the Lincoln Stars. So who is the best in the family? “My sister is pretty good, and my brother is pretty good, too” Teravainen said, “but I think, right now, I’m the best.”
This feature appears in the 2014-15 Season Commerative edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.