Recently, I came across the a photo of Miika playing for the New York Rangers. It peaked my interest and I couldn’t find anything about his time with the Rangers. At the time I shared it on my social media, wondering if anyone who followed me had known he’d been signed to the team.
A couple of people guessed it was Miika as I just played a game of “Guess the Goalie” with them. If I couldn’t find anything online about his time with the team, then who better to ask that the man himself.
As a goalie with an awful lot of experience playing all over the world I wanted to ask more about his time in the NHL and playing for various AHL teams.
Considering Wiikman was never drafted; which is how most goalies come to play in the National Hockey league of course the question cam in regards to playing there, curiousity with these things, always gets the better of me.
“How did that come about?” I ask. “Playing for the New York Rangers, I mean.”
“Well I won a championship in Finland. They wanted to sign an AHL contract with me but the team wouldn’t let me go in Finland so I had to play one more year to sign a contract with them.” It all sounds a little familiar. European leagues not allowing some of the best players to go right away.
“So I played the extra year and then I signed an AHL contract and played really well in my first year and then they offered me a two year NHL, two way deal.” Sounds easy enough doesn’t it?
“I played there for three years total, played a couple of exhibition games, never got a chance in the NHL because Lundqvist was never sick or injured. Henrik was playing really well back then so there was no reason to bring up a goalie from the AHL. You have to be in the right place at the right time, that’s all it is really.”
“And Lundqvist?” I asked, leaning in with interest. Henrik is one of my favourites, you hear stories of him but he seems so untouchable at times.
“He’s been a bit up and down the last season but he’s still probably the best goalie I’ve ever seen in practise and yeah, I’ve practised with him a bit.”
I of course wondered if he’d got the meet the King himself, perhaps learn from him or have a share in his wisdom on the game.
“He’s a different kind of guy, he does his own stuff. He’s special for sure. He doesn’t interact with other people a lot. He’s got so much stuff going on off the ice too. I mean he’s got his modelling thing, his foundation, he plays tennis with McEnroe, he plays guitar in a band and stuff like that so yeah, he’s really nice guy for sure, but it’s hard to get a grip on him.”
Somehow that doesn’t really surprise me. I move on to his days with their affiliate instead. Wondering if he got to play with any of the goalies I liked in the NHL or if he still watched them to encorporate anything they do into his game.
“I do my own thing mostly, but of course I watch the NHL goalies too, there’s always something you can try. I’m always open for new stuff and I’ma pretty quick learner too so it’s pretty easy for me to put that into my game and try it.”
“One guy I’ve been watching a lot lately is Bobrovsky in Columbus and obviously Holtby.”
I chuckle nervously. “My favourite.” I say quietly and Mikka laughs. “I know, I’ve seen your twitter.”
“I actually played against him in the East Coast, I beat him 7-0. He was in South Carolina and I was with Charlotte but I remember playing against him.
I have played against a lot of those guys who are in the NHL right now, Halak, Rask. I played against Rask a lot in the Finnish league. Quick, all those guys and it’s just crazy how close to the NHL I’ve actually been.
When I start thinking about it but like I said you have to be in the right place at the right time and make good choices of course.”