The Carolina Hurricanes’ Teuvo Teravainen was talking about Finnish Christmas traditions last week when the subject of Santa Claus came up.
“He’s kind of Seabass’s neighbor,” Teravainen said.
Wait, what? Santa Claus is the neighbor of the Canes’ Sebastian Aho back in Finland?
“Ask him,” Teravainen said, nodding to Aho across the Raleigh Center Ice locker room.
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Um, Sebastian, is Santa Claus really your neighbor?
“Yes he is,” Aho said, and matter-of-factly. “I’d say it’s about a two and a half hour drive from my place.”
OK, so it’s not like next door or just around the block. One Finnish legend has Santa Claus coming from Korvatunturi, in Lapland. It’s in the northernmost reaches of Finland, with a lot of snow, a lot of reindeer and according to legend Santa’s secret workshop.
Not that Aho, who is from Oulu, and Teravainen will be home for Christmas. The two forwards will spend their Christmas break in Raleigh.
“I haven’t been home for Christmas in like seven, eight years,” said Teravainen, a Helsinki native.
But he said his mother, Sari, is visiting this year. She’ll be like most moms and see that her son has his favorite meals such as Karjalanpiirakka, a Finnish pie that has crust filled with rice porridge.
“Good Christmas food,” Teravainen said.
Aho and his girl friend should join in, Teravainen said, which is fitting in that the two players are rarely away from each other during the season.
Teravainen lives in a fifth-floor apartment in the North Hills area. Aho is in the apartment directly below him.
Teravainen said he tries to be a good, quiet neighbor, saying, “I’ve learned to walk slow and smooth.”
On the ice, it’s all about speed and skill. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour has had the two together on a line nearly all of the season, which suits both of them, and is using them on the power play and the penalty kill.
“We think the game the same way, pretty much,” Teravainen said. “We’re thinking quick, both of us. We pretty much know where the other is. I don’t know but it just clicks pretty good on the ice.”
In Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins at PNC Arena, it was if they were playing a two-man game at times, even with rookie Andrei Svechnikov on their line. Four of the Canes’ scores were:
-- Teravainen with an excuse-me goal, the puck hitting the glove of Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy and past goalie Tuukka Rask.
-- Aho scoring shorthanded after Teravainen took the puck from McAvoy along the boards and found Aho open in the slot.
-- Aho scoring again, pilfering the puck from McAvoy and getting the goal off a give-and-go with Teravainen.
-- Teravainen scoring shorthanded after Aho forced Rask to misplay the puck in front of the net.
With defenseman Justin Faulk scoring his first even-strength goal of the season, it added up to a nice win for the Hurricanes (15-15-5) on a festive night at PNC Arena when they wore the green Hartford Whalers jerseys as a tribute to the franchise past.
Aho and Teravainen matched their career highs with four-point games. Aho was named the first star of the game and Teravainen the second, although the order easily could have been flipped.
“They do think the game very similar,” Brind’Amour said. “They’re both pass-first guys and they both see the ice that way. They’re looking to make that next play. They think a couple of plays ahead and that’s a very unique gift most players don’t have.”
Brind’Amour said Aho, who has 14 goals and 24 assists, is “figuring out goals are fun to score and getting more aggressive in that area.” He would like Teravainen, who the players and coaches call “Turbo,” to shoot more.
Teravainen, 24, in discussing the season after a recent practice, was asked to assess his play.
“Not good, not bad,” he said. “I feel I can play a lot better. I don’t know. Sometimes, it goes your way and you get the bounces. When you don’t get bounces your confidence is off. It’s hard sometimes.”
Teravainen got a bounce Sunday -- a big one for him and the Canes in the last game in a five-game homestand. He now has eight goals and 21 assists.
It was a good way to go into Christmas, which Teravainen calls his favorite holiday. It’s time to relax, eat some good food, gather around the tree and open gifts.
“Maybe a few gifts but I don’t have a tree,” Teravainen said, smiling sheepishly. “I should but I’ve been a little lazy.”
Maybe next year.