DALLAS. Roope Hintz cools down the middle lane at high speed. He passes the puck quickly By Jason Robertson, who returns the puck with a quick pass back to the Finn. Hintz takes possession of the puck between two Anaheim Ducks defenders.
An accurate shot sinks into the top corner and Dallas’ home arena explodes into a storm of screams.
This has been a familiar pattern and sight in Stars’ games for several seasons. 27-year-old Hintz, 24-year-old Robertson and 39-year-old Joe Pavelski have formed an effective first chain of the Texan club for several seasons.
Pavelski, who reads the game excellently, is already 39 years old, but he perfectly complements Robertson and Hintz, who are known as tough skaters. Pavelski reads the game excellently and all his decisions with or without the puck are almost always correct.
This opens up plenty of space for the young couple.
– As a center, I try to use my speed to my advantage. Pavelski is once again one of the best in the world around the goal. Robertson has a good sense of the game and a good shot. This season, there has been a little bit of applying, but I believe that things will start to work properly, reflects Hintz in an interview with Urheilu in a hotel located in the center of Dallas.
The power chain led by Hintz scored a total of 111 goals last season, which was well over a third of all the Stars scored (281). The pace hasn’t slowed down during this season either, but critical NHL reporters expect even more from this trio.
Stars’ number one fist has the biggest responsibility for making results, and Hintz is also aware of this. The trio cannot afford so-called passing games.
– I don’t take pressure from it. It’s been funny to notice that if we don’t score a goal for a couple of games, the media immediately starts asking why it’s not working. It shows that expectations are high.
Hintz does not take unnecessary pressure from his own or his chain’s performance.
– When I go on the ice, nothing stresses or excites me. The only thing he sometimes thinks about is that he wouldn’t get injured at least badly, that he would have to be on the sidelines for the whole season. It’s probably the only thing I think about from time to time.
Success is expected from the Stars every season. The team is currently riding hot on the heels of the top teams in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets and the Colorado Avalanche.
Hintz has also been effective again. Around the middle of the season, he is already on his way to nearly 40 goals for the third year in a row. Stars’ Finnish center has accumulated 22+26=48 performances in 50 matches.
– It sounds really good, but the most important thing is that we have won games as a team. If we had lost more than half of the games, then our own points would not warm us much. The success of the team is the most important thing. If then you can play well and help the team, that’s a good thing.
– I think we’ve played really well so far, but we might have some really bad individual games from time to time. It should be fixed. We roll evenly on four courts, so we distribute the playing load very evenly among the whole group.
“Sometimes I’ve heard things”
Although Roope Hintz has played in the junior national teams his whole lion’s path, when he was younger he was considered a bit of a go-getter. The talent of the current star center was widely known, but Hintz still had the label of a lazy intern.
– When I was younger, I did a little of my own things. I wasn’t the one running at the top of the jogging group. I spent more time outside.
Hintz spent the 2012-2013 season with the Tampa Bay team in the junior league, where he had his first awakening as a hockey player. Under the Florida sun, the foundation was also created for what he is known for in the NHL, i.e. good skating.
– My entire skating technique was changed. I used to skate really wide, and I didn’t get much kick to go with it, because the kick was too short. I was on the ice every other day and on the days in between I did dry training. Then, when I started getting taller, I started strength training, Hintz says.
After the foundations were put in place, Hintz was first included in the SM league team in the 2013–2014 season, when he made his debut in the SM league in a local game against Tapparaa in Hakametsä.
The bright lights of the league quickly became familiar, as power started to accumulate in the first full league season (2014–15) in Ilves.
The progress of the slick-moving Finn had also been followed in North America, and the Dallas Stars booked Hintz in the second round as the 49th player in the summer of 2015.
At that stage, Helsinki IFK had their eyes on the talented youngster. Two seasons rolled by at HIFK, during which Hintz rose once and for all to the awareness of the Finnish puck audience.
– I had my own coaches before moving to HIFK. That’s when I started to push things seriously. Sometimes I’ve heard stories that I’ve been lazy to exercise. However, that is not quite true.
Looking at Hintz’s current state, you can clearly see that more than enough time has been spent in the gym and training. Even so, early in his NHL career, Hintz heard talk that he wouldn’t give it his all in practice.
However, he quickly silenced the critics.
– I’ve always said that you’re welcome to watch the training sessions, that they go really hard there. I am of the opinion that you cannot improve as a player if you do not practice properly. Talent is also needed, but even that is not enough, says Hintz.
The career has flown in a strong tailwind
With hard training, Hintz has risen to star player status in the NHL. Now the Finnish pace machine is already in his fourth season with a point per game pace. As of autumn 2020, Hintz’s statistics are 244 regular season matches with an output of 111+126=238.
It is for this reason that the Texan club signed a contract with Hintz for eight years and worth about 65 million dollars a year ago, which will keep him with the Stars until 2031.
– That’s when you realized that you’ve done things right when I’ve earned something like that. Yes, the contract was also a kind of reward that I have done well. After such an agreement, the work must continue. Things can’t slow down after that.
Hintz feels that he has progressed moderately in his NHL career one step at a time.
– It all started in the AHL. After that, in the NHL, I started with small minutes in the quad, and I wasn’t allowed to play overpower. I think I’ve been going in the right direction all along. The development curve has remained at the top all the time, at least until now.
The work still continues. Hintz constantly strives to develop as a player in all areas. Skating is Ilves’ biggest weapon on the ice, but during summer training, the same feature is being developed even further.
– There are things to improve and I am constantly working on them. Skating is my strength, but still every summer we try to improve our starting speed. It should be made even better. We also practice translations. I’m a big player and I’m trying to make turns faster and protect the puck better.
In addition to developing as a player, the brightest goal is to achieve the NHL championship.
– As a team, of course I want to win the Stanley Cup. I don’t know if there are any big personal goals for me that I think about or chase. It would be nice if you could get some personal recognition. For me, the biggest thing would be that I could constantly develop as a player.