CHICAGO – Fresh off a transatlantic flight, a young Swede named Johnny Oduya arrived in the Canadian city of Moncton ready to go to work.
He was 18 years old. He carried a suitcase.
“You bring your stuff,” Oduya said. “Obviously, you don’t have that much.”
More than 13 years later, Oduya can afford plenty of additional stuff. The Blackhawks defenseman is an eight-year NHL veteran by now, not a wide-eyed European teenager playing a familiar game in a strange land.
“It’s always something different when you move from where you grew up,” Oduya said. “But seeing the world is something that I enjoy. So, for me, it was fun.”
Maybe some day, Finland native Teuvo Teravainen will share a similar story.
For now, though, he’s 100 percent wide-eyed European teenager.
Teravainen, 19, is the latest prized prospect to join the Hawks’ talent-laden roster. He joined his new teammates at Friday’s morning skate, smiling as he received quick hellos from players such as Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
And although Hawks coach Joel Quenneville kept the rookie out of the lineup Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, chances are good that you’ll see No. 86 soon. The playmaking center was the Hawks’ first-round pick (No. 18 overall) in the 2012 NHL entry draft, and he shined on his Finnish team this season before joining the Hawks.
The Hawks long had considered calling up Teravainen toward the end of the season, but a leg injury to Patrick Kane accelerated the move. Kane will miss the rest of the regular season but will return for the playoffs, general manager Stan Bowman said.
Now, as for how to pronounce Teuvo’s first name … .
“Teevo?” said Quenneville, half-smiling and half-serious. “We’ll have to check. Sounds good to me. I’ve got to work on that.”
Teravainen grinned when asked whether anybody could pronounce his name right. For the record, it’s “TAY-vo.”
“No, but I’m getting used to that,” Teravainen said. “Everybody is saying a different name. Some is Teevo, Tyvo, Toovo. It’s OK.”
Quenneville had an idea.
“Maybe his nickname might be TiVo,” Quenneville said.
On another team, Teravainen might have felt more pressure to jump on the ice and save the franchise starting with his first practice shift. But the Hawks have a deep core of strong leaders, which should allow Teravainen to watch and learn – and to contribute, whenever possible.
The new kid walked slowly but surely toward his first interview outside of the Hawks’ locker room, where he was mobbed by dozens of reporters and TV cameras. Yes, he offered a couple of nervous laughs, and no, it appeared that he’s never needed to shave, but his words hinted at maturity beyond his years.
“I don’t need to be Superman here,” Teravainen said.
He just needs to be Teevo, Tyvo, Toovo, whatever.
And his once-teenaged teammates are here to help, both on and off the ice.
“He’s so skilled and a very smart player,” Oduya said. “For him, I think on the ice will be the least of the problems. And then around it, obviously we’ve got [Finnish goaltender] Antti [Raanta] here, too, and there’s a lot of other Swedes and Europeans. I think he’s going to feel at home.
“That’s something we have to do on the side, to make sure he has everything he needs to feel comfortable and perform on the ice. Other than that, it’s just a learning curve.”
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.