Since he was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2004, Pekka Rinne has become the face of the franchise, racking up accolades in the hockey world and amassing a rabid group of fans who call themselves “Pekka Heads.” Once again this year, he's a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, the annual award for the best goaltender in the NHL. Rinne has also been a two-time nominee for the Hart Trophy, the NHL’s MVP award and has been selected to the NHL All-Star Game three times. A few days after the Preds ended their regular season as Presidents' Trophy winners, Rinne talked to The Contributor about how his desire to win as a team trumps his desire for a personal award.
Who in the league do you admire most?
There’s a lot of guys; there’s so many. I always look up to guys who have played a long career and had a few injuries and a few setbacks in their career and still had to play strong.
You hold almost every goaltending record in franchise history. How have you been able to sustain your success for so long?
I feel like I'm still very passionate about the game. I love playing hockey, and I feel so fortunate playing hockey. Year after year, I feel like we have a really good team. I think that’s the biggest thing. They help me out and make me better .
As the face of the franchise, what has it been like to grow with the Predators' organization?
It’s been quite a change in 10 years, not only for the city, but the organization and where we’ve come from and what we’ve become. It’s been awesome. It’s been great to be apart of it. The city, and how much it’s grown and the fanbase we have - it’s so big now. It’s awesome.
What would winning the Vezina Trophy mean to you?
It’s an individual trophy, so that would be cool to win it, but at the same time my goal is to win the Stanley Cup. I don’t want to sound boring, but that would be pretty special. I look at any goalies who have won the Vezina Trophy, and they are the best goalies in the world, so that would be great.
What's your relationship with Juuse Saros? What do you feel when he's in the net?
The guys always joke around that I’m the dad and (Saros) is the son. I think we have a great relationship. I’m not nervous, but I hope he does well when he’s playing. At the same time, he’s so good that I try to watch him play and the things that he does. I am very excited for his success. He’s played a really good season.
How did last year's playoff experience influence your play this season?
I think that any time you get the chance to go to the playoffs, just thinking about the playoffs, you get excited. Last year’s experience was unbelievable, all the ups and downs and the city going crazy. You just think about it and you get goosebumps. I can’t wait for Thursday.
What do you want to tell Predators fans as we head into the playoffs?
I know they will, but just stay behind us. We’re going to do our best every single night, but we also need you guys. Keep doing what you’re doing.
You and (former Predators player) Shea Weber established the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund. What do you find most rewarding about your efforts there?
Personally, visiting the kids, seeing the kids, seeing the families and having the chance to bring the families to games at a suite in the Bridgestone. Every single home game we bring kids and their families from the hospital. Just visiting them afterwards is very rewarding. Also, working with some of the sponsorships who donate a lot of money. I am privileged to present the check every year. I know that they do a lot of good things with the money. For me personally, it’s visiting the kids and seeing the kids, that’s so awesome.