LAHTI. December 2011, Lahti Ski Museum.
– I don’t know any of these hill jumpers. They are not familiar to me, says the beanie-capped ice hockey player in front of a showcase about Finnish ski jumping greats.
– This is definitely a bad thing for me, I will definitely hear about this from the guys in the locker room.
August 2023, Lahti Ski Museum.
– Wow, that was the one time I didn’t recognize any hill jumpers! It was embarrassing, laughs the same hockey player, this time without a hat.
Lahti Pelicans forward Ryan Lasch watches a TV show shown on Urheiluruudu during the ice hockey SM league’s Christmas break in 2011 with Urheilu’s reporter. The story tells about him, a power player from California who played his second professional season. The legendary Californian surf rock band Beach Boys played in the background.
– Ainiin, that song is playing in the background! I also immediately notice how differently I play there than now. Maybe just with a good look, in any case it’s cool to watch, Lasch says with a laugh.
Almost 12 years have passed in between. At that time, 23-year-old Lasch, who was just getting used to being a professional, has become a multiple champion and a responsible bearer. However, one thing unites: the American was then and is now the cornerstone of the Pelicans’ offense.
Lasch, Lahti and Pelicans have grown closely together. Despite the fact that the 36-year-old winger has played most of his career elsewhere than on the shores of Lake Vesijärvi.
– This city and its club are a certain kind of “weak point”. I feel that I have always had a strong connection here since my first season, Lasch admits in an interview on the edge of Lahti’s hill stand.
As stated, this is not the first time. Lasch has played for the Pelicans throughout the 2011–12 season and part of the 2020–21 season.
The games of those seasons have been imprinted on the minds of Finnish hockey fans and especially on the hearts of those who wear turquoise. In his first season, Lasch won the SM League points crown and led the Pelicans to their first medal in history, silver. The second visit was shorter, but incredibly effective.
A partner has also started living in Lahti. Lasch met his wife Jasmin’s in his first season with the Pelicans.
– I don’t dare to say I’m a local yet, but this city has a special place in my heart. I enjoy the moments when I’m here, and not just because my wife is from here, he says.
– In the past, I have tried to visit here several times during the year. Every time there is a national team break, for example.
Lasch says that returning to Lahti “felt right”, when the last half of last season in Frölunda of the Swedish SHL was plagued by injuries.
– I have gained new energy and am generally happier now. Things are better here now.
The atmosphere of Niemelä brings energy
The energy received by the Pelicans coaching staff sounds very good.
The people of Lahti have been given a title before the season that has never been heard in the mast city before: champion favorite.
– The city has had such a “are you thinking of doing it this season” atmosphere. It hasn’t been like this before, Lasch characterizes with a smile.
After that, the American answers every question about the championship, the team’s goals and his hopes in the same way. He talks about the long journey and calming down excessive expectations.
– We want to play in a balanced way, develop constantly and be at our best in the playoffs, he enthuses.
Pelicans head coach Tommi Niemelä is one of the reasons why Lasch has returned to Lahti for the second time. The duo, who worked together last time, get along well.
– I appreciate Tommi’s skills as a “players’ coach” very much. He is unique in that he is clearly better at communicating than most hockey coaches I have dealt with. I enjoy the atmosphere he creates for his team.
Opinions on display
Lasch, who lives in the rink for his speed and puck skills, is calm outside the rink. In the interview, he sits with his hands folded in front of him and answers openly. Depending on the topic, a smile flashes across the lips.
Despite his calmness, Lasch also shares his opinion openly, sometimes sharply.
For example, during the 2016 presidential election in his home country, he tweeted the former president of the United States Barack Obama’s being a “clown, liar and arrogant”.
– I don’t regret that tweet, but I could have used different words, Lasch said in 2019 In a long interview with Expressen.
Lasch, a self-confessed Republican, also said in 2016 that he would support whoever was later elected as president Donald Trump. He felt that In an interview with Expressen he was painted as a “fanatic Trump supporter”.
– There was a small misunderstanding in that matter. I mean, he does a lot of things well. But, then there is that part of the story that makes you wonder, “did he really do it just like that”? I’m a Republican, but that doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything. He’s doing well, but some of the stuff is just plain stupid, Lasch explained his thoughts three years later.
The power player is also open to his teammates if asked about his values. Lasch, who openly talked about his strong Christian faith, has also justified his political opinions with his faith.
– Ryan is an open guy with whom it is easy to talk about hockey and everything else. I know that he has strong views on issues related to religion and politics, for example, and when asked, he also says them, but otherwise he doesn’t bring them up so much, comments Etelä Suomen Sanomat Lasch is personified by a former teammate and Pelicans captain Joonas Jalvanti.