Alright so long time readers know that I am a Vancouver Canucks fan for 50 years now. 50 long, long years.
In that time I generally can recall most players who played for the team, even if it was just briefly.
But that was not the case for a Finnish defenseman named Mikko Jokela. I recently learned he played just one game in the National Hockey League, with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2002-03 season.
I had to look into this one, of course. And while he never scored a goal and played only sparingly, Mikko Jokela's NHL story is most interesting.
You see, Jokela was called up from the Canucks American Hockey League farm team in Albany because Sami Salo, a fellow Finn, couldn't play with one of his many injuries.
Normally when a player gets called up for his first NHL game, he would spend his afternoon full of nervousness, excitement and anxiety. But Jokela didn't have time. In fact he barely made it.
The flight to Detroit was delayed and did not land until about 6:30pm, just as the team was starting their pre-game warm ups. Jokela made it to the rink some 30-45 minutes later, as the national anthems were playing right before the game.
But there was another problem, which only Jokela was probably aware of. His equipment did not make it. Somehow the airline lost it.
So as the first period was under way, Jokela and the Canucks equipment managers scrambled. When Jokela finally reached the bench, he was wearing Trent Klatt's extra skates, Darren Langdon's underwear, Sami Salo's gloves and Brent Sopel's stick.
Pretty much no Canucks player knew who the new comer was. He had been acquired from New Jersey only a month earlier, in exchange for Steve Kariya, Paul's brother. That meant Jokela had never attended a Canucks training camp and was unknown to the players.
Jokela played a total of just five minutes and nine seconds that night. It was productive though, as he registered three shots on net that time. He was even on the ice when the Canucks scored the game tying goal, forcing overtime. The Canucks would win the game in OT.
But that was it. When the Canucks got to the airport shortly after the game, the team continued on with their road trip, and Jokela returned to Albany.
To make this story even a little weirder, I do not know if Jokela even got to keep his only NHL jersey. I found a website claiming to have a game worn #38 Jokela Canucks jersey for sale, though I do not know how legitimate it is.
Jokela returned to Finland by 2004, playing in Europe until 2017.