HELSINKI — Joe Morrow could spend hours on Trip Advisor chronicling in great detail the week he spent in Finland, if the Winnipeg Jets defenceman was so inclined.
The Helsinki tourism bureau should get this guy’s testimonial on a website somewhere.
Morrow, 25, from Edmonton, has been racking up the step count since the Jets arrived in the capital city Sunday, enjoying the sights, sounds and flavours of a place he’s never been before.
The Winnipeg squad (7-4-1) faces the Florida Panthers (2-4-3) in a pair of regular-season contests as part of the NHL’s Global Series. The opener is slated for Thursday at 1:05 p.m. (Central Time), while the second game is Friday. Both contests are at 13,400-seat Hartwall Arena.
Just minutes after arriving Sunday, Patrik Laine proclaimed he wouldn’t perform tour-guide duties for his teammates during their six-day visit to his homeland.
“They have their phones… they have Google,” he told reporters.
The Jets would have been wise to follow the itinerary of a seasoned traveller like Morrow, who has made certain to savour every moment away from the rink.
“I’ve been walking around a lot, actually. Doing a some shopping, testing out new restaurants and seeing new areas. I’ve been to a couple of churches, the saunas. It’s been fun,” he said. “I’ve never been to Helsinki, but this past summer I was in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, just kicking around, learning about the culture, different ways of life. It really broadens your horizons.”
The Jets had Monday off and then practised Tuesday and Wednesday, but still had several hours to explore.
“We get quite a few hours in the day to explore. Luckily, they’re the sunny hours, which are very few and far between here. The thing that fascinates me the most about Scandinavia is the demeanour of people and how they live their lives — very calm, very quiet,” said Morrow. “Everything is serene and calm, no one’s in a rush. (They are) super polite and just happy to be here.”
Testing out traditional Finnish food has been a big part of the trip, said Morrow.
“I tried bear this time, a little more dry than any other meat I’ve had. They have the salmon soup and that was Top-5 best soups I’ve ever had. A nice creamy broth with big chunks of salmon,” he said.
Jets centre Bryan Little gobbled up elk meatballs but he politely passed on reindeer in any form, smoked, dried, minced or otherwise. Chowing down on Rudolph just wasn’t going to happen.
“I couldn’t bring myself to try the reindeer. It kind of freaked me out,” he said, with a grimace.
They say one should never leave Finland without trying a typical sauna, and most of the Jets have taken heed. Blue-liner Josh Morrissey was with a group that shed clothes, stepped into a pine-clad room, steamed up and let the sweat run free. Once the heat became too much to take, they raced outside and took a big leap of faith.
“It was cold when you jump into the water. It felt good, actually, but it was very cold,” said Morrissey, one of seven or eight Jets to dive into the Baltic Sea.
Added Little: “Freezing cold, probably only do it once.”
Most of the other Winnipeg troops seem content with the drastic alteration to their everyday routines on this special road trip — a journey across the Atlantic Ocean — for games that actually matter in the standings against one of their more unfamiliar opponents.
The Jets left Toronto in the wee hours Sunday morning, and the time on their phones jumped seven hours ahead when they landed Monday. Since then, Finland has fallen back an hour due to national daylight saving.
Morrow escaped jet lag but Adam Lowry admitted he’s taken a heavy check from the common travel affliction.
“It sucks… way more than I expected,” he said. “I’ve never been to Europe so I’ve never had to deal with it. Our strength and conditioning coach had given us a presentation, giving us the regiment of what to do on the plane to lessen the effects, and it still didn’t work.
“It’s been a bit of a battle, and then it’s going to be weird going back and trying to re-adjust the clock.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice said he preached to a more rested and engaged crew during Wednesday’s on-ice session, noting they received a free pass during a more subdued practice Tuesday.
“(Tuesday) was just a work-through day, kind of try to get on the time zone and not critique too much of what we were doing on the ice. (Wednesday) we were grinding a little harder and our pace was much better. We were far more focused on the ice and now we have two really important business days coming up here,” said Maurice.
“You can almost expect that everything around you (this week) is going to be completely different, what you’re eating… sleep schedules and everybody’s got something different. All the coaches are trying to do is when we start talking hockey, that it’s the same things that are important to us. But I don’t have an expectation that we can get to normalcy here in this amount of time, so I’m not really worried about it.”
The Jets can ill afford to gaze into the future with four points in the standings on the line this week, but consideration has to be given to how the team rebounds once it’s back in familiar surroundings. Winnipeg flies home Saturday morning and will have a few days off before returning to the ice to prepare for a key matchup with the Central Division rival Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs participated in the 2017 Global Series in Stockholm, losing once in overtime and another in regulation to the Ottawa Senators. Colorado returned to North America and won three of their next four. The Sens — not a strong club at the best of time — left Sweden with two triumphs and then slumped mightily, going winless in seven straight and winning just once in 13.
Lowry doesn’t foresee any “Jet lag” once they get back to Manitoba.
“We’re a good team at home and we feel comfortable there. We have plenty of time once we get home to get up to speed,” he said.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).