There’s an old saying in motorsports; “If you want to win, hire a Finn.” And that is just what the Hurricanes did when they acquired Tuomo Ruutu, the 28 year old Vantaa, Finland native, from Chicago in exchange for Andrew Ladd in 2008. The 6’0”, 205 pound center was taken 9th overall in the 1st round and is signed with the Canes through the 2012 season.
Ruutu plays with the spirit of a gladiator without his older brother Jarkko’s penchant for human flesh. He was 2nd in assists this past season with 38 behind the captain Eric Staal and 4th in goals with 19 tied with his fellow countryman Jussi Jokinen. The Jokinen/Ruutu/Skinner line was showing great chemistry at the end of the season and Ruutu and Skinner were known not only for their hockey prowess but for their infectious grins.
But don’t let #15’s crooked smile fool you. Ruutu brings an element to his game that is best described by the Finnish term “sisu.” Loosely translated as “strength of will, determination, perseverance,” sisu is more than that. Targeted by Alex Ovechkin for retribution for an un-penalized hit on teammate Dennis Wideman in a March 30th matchup with the Caps, Ruutu bounced back from each hit like a punching dummy. Ovechkin, returning from a week off for an undisclosed injury was on a mission to take the smaller, pesky Finn out. The extra 2 inches and 30 pounds Ovi had on him didn’t matter as Ruutu finished the game with 8 hits and a goal in the shootout in the 3-2 Canes victory. He came back the next night with a glass shattering hit on big Hal Gill of the Habs. The breakage was due to engineering and hitting the glass in the perfect spot, but I call it the sisu of Ruutu. At times he seems unstoppable like Monty Python’s Black Knight and I fully expect to hear him yell “It’s just a flesh wound!” as he skates back on the ice injury after injury.
In addition to his play with the Canes, the tenacious center represented Team Finland in the 2010 Olympics defeating Slovakia 5-3 in a bronze medal match. This spring he demonstrated his maturity as a player in serving as the team’s alternate captain as they went on to win the 2011 IIHF World Championship. While some Finns celebrated with revelry in the public fountains, he was shown celebrating the victory with champagne. The only thing he reportedly flashed was his famous smile.
Tuomo Ruutu’s baths consist of ice not bubbles, and he comes out to play every night. All 82 games last season. He has proven himself worthy of his top six position on the second line and is emerging as a leader. A leader full of sisu, with personality to spare and a love of 80’s hair metal. If you are heading into the arena, you want this warrior on your team. Just don’t let him pick the warm-up skate music.
Topics: 2010 Olympic Hockey, Alexander Ovechkin, Andrew Ladd, Chicago Blackhawks, Dennis Wideman, Eric Staal, Finland, Hal Gill, IIHF World Championships, Jarkko Ruutu, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Montreal Canadiens, Monty Python Black Knight, Sisu, Team Finland, Team Suomi, Tuomo Ruutu, Washington Capitals