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Chat transcript: Oskar Osala

June 4, 2009

Rookie forward Oskar Osala of the Eastern Conference champion Hershey Bears entered the AHL Chat Room to discuss some of the adjustments he had to make from playing in Finland, his experience so far in Hershey, the Bears’ Calder Cup Finals series against Manitoba, the experience of being in the Finals as a rookie, and much more.

What is your favorite part about playing in the playoffs? – Courtney from Connecticut.

The best part is that every game matters so much compared to the regular season, where there are 80 games. Of course every game matters there too, but not as much because as long as you’re in the playoffs, you’re pretty much good to go. So every game matters, and teams really start to get tighter. Everybody wants to win the game, and nobody really cares who scores the goals.

Where has been your favorite place to play an away game, and why? – Courtney from Connecticut

(Laughs) Well I don’t know if I can say it, but I’d have to say Manitoba. My first games in Manitoba were in the Finals here, but Manitoba was unbelievable. They had great fans and a very loud building, and a really nice building. So I would definitely have to say Manitoba.

Coming from Finland, was it hard to adjust to life in the United States and to Hershey? – Sylvia from Washington, D.C.

Well I played two years before in the OHL, so just being in Canada for two years prepared me a lot for this year, for sure. But it’s still a pretty big adjustment. And I would say Hershey especially was an adjustment because I’m always used to living in bigger cities, like last year I played in Helsinki (Finland), and I played two years in Toronto, and then my hometown of Vaasa is a very, very nice city, and Hershey is like a little town.

Hershey has been really different, and it’s been an adjustment to try and find ways to kill the spare time. When it’s nice weather I try and golf, but other than that we play ping pong with the boys or go to movies. We almost always have to do something with guys on the team. Maybe if you live in a bigger city you can escape and do something else, but here you really need to use your imagination.

How would you say that your experience playing major junior hockey helped you as you returned to the North American style of game this year? – Andrew from Alexandria, Va.

A lot. I would say the OHL is very professionally taken care of. Everything that happens at the rink and at the practices, and I had a great coach Greg Gilbert in the OHL, who ran pretty much an NHL/AHL style of pro practices and systems. I think it really prepared me a lot, and I knew what to expect. I think the step from the OHL outside of the rink to the AHL is not very big. On the ice, it’s big, but how things are run, how you travel, how everything works is pretty similar.

How would you compare the fans in Hershey to the fans over in Finland? – Zach from Annville, Pa.

The Hershey fans are a lot louder, and they have bigger crowds. I think the average in Finland was 4,000 or 5,000. They got pretty loud, too, but just to have so much more people, it’s a big difference. It’s a lot better atmosphere, and I think the fans are better here for sure.

What is the best part about playing in Hershey? – Holly from Lancaster, Pa.

The fans, I’d have to say for sure. And the facilities – our locker room and the rink in general is really nice. Those are probably the best things about Hershey.

Given how the Calder Cup Finals have gone thus far, how are you guys feeling coming back to Hershey for the next three games? – Jess from Monrovia, Md.

Well, we’re not happy about how things went in Game 2, so we’re really looking forward to getting what we thought we deserved in Game 2, and win the next game. I think we have to be more physical, and just get more traffic in front of the net. And the home crowd gives you so much more energy, so I think we can have a lot better jump. It’s also easier to be physical when you have the crowd behind you.

You’ve faced many offensive weapons this playoff season such as Chris Minard, Vladimir Sobotka, and Brad Marchand, and great goalies like Tuukka Rask. How do guys like Jason Jaffray, Jason Krog, and Cory Schneider compare to the other stars that you’ve opposed this playoff year? – Mike from Lancaster, S.C.

Oh, they’re very good players for sure. It’s tough to compare the players, because I think Jaffray and Krog both are very different than Minard and Taffe on Wilkes-Barre. They’re very good players, superstars for sure, and you really have to pay attention to them when you’re out against them at the same time. And (Schneider) is a tremendous goalie. I feel like it’s tough to beat him off a straight shot. It has to be a rebound or a one-timer to score on him, so he’s a really good goalie.

How hard are you guys working to try to get the three wins to win the Calder Cup in Hershey?– Tyler from Lancaster, Pa.

Of course we’d like to. We’re trying to do everything we can to win three in a row. That’s for sure. We try to win every game in the playoffs, but especially now that we have three consecutive games at home. It’s huge, so that’s obviously the dream scenario, to win at home.

What is it like to be in the Calder Cup Finals as a rookie? – Brandon from Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

It’s amazing, it’s almost a little unreal. When I was 16 and I was a rookie in the Finnish second league, we went to the Finals. Then last year when I was a rookie in Finland, my first year in the Finnish elite league, we went to the Finals. And now when I’m a rookie here in the AHL, we’re in the Finals. But there’s one thing I really want to change. The last two times, I lost the Finals, and now I’m really sick and tired of losing Finals. So I really, really want to win this time.

What do you think has been the biggest highlight for you during the season? – Patti from Landisburg, Pa.

If I could pick two moments, it would probably have to be the hat trick against Philadelphia (in November) and then Game 1 of the Finals. I was able to score two goals, and it was pretty amazing in front of that big of a crowd, and it was a pretty tight game, too. So it was real good.

Do you have any particular plans for the upcoming off-season? – JayJay from Cockeysville, Md.

Yes, I’m going to go home to Vaasa, Finland, and I’m going to work hard in the gym and try to play golf every day.

What do you think your chances are of playing up with the Capitals next season, and what parts of your game do you think you need to work on? – Carson from King George, Va.

Well, our Hershey lineup and the Washington lineup seem to be very stacked up and very deep, so it’s not going to be easy to get a spot on that roster. It’s tough to say one area where I need to improve, but I think my skating still needs to be a little sharper and a little quicker on the first step. And just overall, I need to become a little better at each aspect of the game, and I hope that will take me to the next level. I really hope I can crack that lineup, but it’s definitely not an easy task.

Do you have any certain pre- and post-game rituals? – Teka from Beaverton, Ore.

I do (have routines), but I change them up during every season. I always go with one routine for a certain stretch of time, and when you get really tired of it or the games start not going well, then you try to change it up. But I don’t have any that I’ve been following for many years. A month is maybe the longest I go with one routine, but it’s never really anything in particular.