Nearly played nine seasons in the KHL Teemu Hartikainen, 32, is like a man reborn. He has found a new, pleasant home for his family in Geneva, Switzerland, right next to the French border, and is full of energy after the difficult but successful years spent in Russia.
“My quality of life has improved considerably. I can now spend time with my family much better, since there are no long trips to games and I can’t accumulate sleep debt”, says Hartikainen, who lives in Switzerland with his wife and two children, happily.
In the KHL, Hartikainen’s away tours lasted up to a week, in Switzerland they return home from away games already the same evening. The number of games is also more moderate.
“Mentally, it’s much easier to be when you don’t have to be going somewhere all the time, but I can actually be present at home,” says Hartikainen.
In Geneva, located on the edge of the Alps, the Savoie jässikka has now had time to enjoy one of his absolute hobbies: outdoor activities.
“In Russia, we lived in the inner city, and there was no nature nearby. In addition, there the driver took you everywhere. I don’t even use a car here, we ride electric bikes,” says Hartikainen.
Hartikainen the relationship with nature is exceptionally strong. The native of Kuopio is known as a passionate fisherman and hunter, although the hustle and bustle of his puck career has taken a toll on his hunting hobby.
“Fishing has become an even more important hobby while living abroad, since I haven’t been able to participate in the autumn hunting season. Fortunately, you can get pretty much the same things from fly fishing as from hunting. That’s where you can really get into nature,” says Hartikainen.
He says that he traveled a lot because of fishing:
“For example, in Canada, Russia and Norway. Next summer I’m going to Greenland. It broadens your world view when you get to fish in different countries.”
On his fishing trips, also in Finland, Hartikainen has unfortunately observed the disconcerting consequences of climate change. As a person who loves nature, he talks about the subject in a serious tone.
“I have made a lot of observations. For example, I have noticed how the water has warmed up in waterways where I have spent a lot of time during my life. Nowadays, rapids in Finland are usually closed to fishing as early as Midsummer, when the water temperature has risen above 20 degrees. It’s absolutely unbelievable”, Hartikainen laments.
“On the water, I have also noticed how things have started to enter the lakes from the fields and marshes. It’s not nice to notice when clear lakes start to darken,” he says.
All this has caused Hartikainen to worry.
“It’s constantly running through my mind, what is it like here for my children, grandchildren and so on. It raises a lot of concern about what the end result is sometimes.”
Kiekkotähti has thought of joining nature conservation projects.
“If I can be of help with my resources and contact network, then that could be a very good thing,” says Hartikainen.
Nature is so close to the winger’s heart that he has even tossed around the idea of jumping into a completely new passion profession after his puck career.
“I’ve actually fly-fished a lot abroad, so you could plan some guiding work there. Or in Finland. But it could be that I just want to keep this thing as a hobby,” Hartikainen says.
Yet although it is too early to talk with Hartikainen about life after his career, because last spring’s double champion of the Lions has played at a top level in the Swiss premier league this season.
This winter, a completely new side of Hartikainen has also been seen. The hunk, known as a master puck protector, has suddenly started conjuring amazing tricks that puck fans around the world are wondering about on social media.
In December, Hartikainen astounded in the Leijonien shirt with his clever dunk attempt and a month later he dazzled in Switzerland with his special foot pass.
“Even though I’m more of a power forward, I’ve always liked to play tricks. I know I’m not soft-handed, but I still consider myself a yard player. I’ve already learned the tricks to some extent, and now that the career is starting to turn towards the end, so why not save them anymore. At least it won’t be a regret after the career”, Hartikainen laughs.
“If suitable positions come up, there will be even more gigs in the bank,” he promises.
Hartikainen has often said that he wants to end his career in Kuopio in the shirt of his breeding club KalPa. He is also a co-owner of the club. Even though the final season is starting to loom, the return to Finland may not take place yet next season.
“The older child would not go to Finnish school next fall, so in a way there is still ‘a year to go’. It could very well be that next season I will still be in Switzerland, but my dream would still be to play in Kuopio, achieve success and finish there,” says Hartikainen.
“A lot also depends on how the body can withstand it.”
Hartikainen declares that he is very excited to represent Leijon again in the spring home games. The stomach of the double champion is not yet full of national team success.
“Home competitions are definitely interesting. It’s games like that that I’ve always trained for.”
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