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Saskatoon Blades crowd favorite: Jyri Niemi
Besides serving as host to the Islanders for this year's training camp, Saskatoon has some strong ties to the organization. Not only do they have a banner honoring Islanders legend Bob Bourne (who played three seasons for the Saskatoon Blades in the early 70's) hanging from the rafters at the Credit Union Centre (although not right now as the building is undergoing renovations), they also have a member of the Saskatoon Blades attending training camp this year, Finnish defenseman Jyri Niemi.
Niemi, who the Islanders drafted in the 3rd round (72nd overall) of last year's draft, has quickly become a crowd favorite in his two seasons for the Blades (66 points in 109 games) largely for his big shot and enthusiastic goal celebrations.
"He gets a little carried away," joked Eleanor Chrispen, 81, a Saskatoon Blades Booster Club member since its inception. "He does like to celebrate."
That's fine by Chrispen, who has enjoyed watching Niemi endear himself to Blades faithful.
"They love his style of play," Chrispen said of the fans. "He's such a personable young man."
"I think he's an all-around good player too. He's got lots of nice moves."
Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken said he thinks Niemi will be a little more eager for camp, given he'll be playing in familiar territory.
"I think he's excited about having camp here," Molleken said. "He's been a tremendous player at out level, and I think he has the potential to play at the next level. It will be interesting to see how he competes."
Talk about a whirlwind past couple of days for Niemi. He flew out to New York Friday morning to be available for Saturday's physical testing at Nassau Coliseum. He'll then come right back to Saskatoon with the team to open camp Saturday...not a travel itinerary I envy!
I'll keep you posted if I get to see any of these legendary goal celebrations in person ;)
Photo credit: Steve Hiscock Photography