Blast from the Past – Mikko PurontakanenPosted: 05/05/2011
Born: 4th May 1980 in Oulu, Pohjois-Pohjanmaa, Finland
Career stats: Elite Prospects site
A few months into the 2007-08 season, the Basingstoke Bison were in trouble. The club was on the brink of financial collapse but was rescued from the brink (at the time) by Cardiff based, Swedish businessman Tomas Enerston. At his first fan forum since becoming the owner of the team, Enerston announced that after streams of players leaving that a new defenceman was signing. Nobody heard his name properly, just that he was a friend of Kyle Peto.
That man was #3 Mikko Purontakanen. “Pukey” (as he was called before we all learned how to say Purontakanen) became a fast and firm favourite amongst the Bison faithful for his massive slapshot, his physical style and his crazy darts up the ice. Despite only being with the team for a short time, the big Finn is arguably one of the most fondly remembered Bison players of recent times.
From his home in Finland, Mikko was good enough to answer a few questions about his life and hockey career.
DISCLAIMER: Some of Mikko’s answers have been slightly edited for grammatical accuracy, spelling and generally to make sense but no element of the content has been edited.
You’re from Oulu in the north of Finland, what’s it like to grow up there?
I really liked growing up here, we have all 4 seasons, lots of snow in the winter and a short but lovely summer with midnight sun. It’s quite a small town and the people are really laid back.
Oulu is home to Kärpät, one of the more recently successful teams in the SM-liiga and the club won their 1st Finnish title in 1981 just after you were born. Was Oulu very much a “hockey town” when you were growing up?
Yes it was and still is.
You were playing your junior hockey for Kärpät in a youth system that has produced some some well known NHL players like Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkänen and Pekka Rinne; what was it like learning your skills in that environment?
We always had good coaching and that is why Kärpät is doing so well, it also helps that during the winter you can skate and play outside because most of schools have fields that they freeze for the winter.
You left Kärpät’s junior system to play in the 4th division for Keikko-Oulu before eventually making the long journey south to play for Lukko. What motivated you to move south?
For me it was pretty much my last chance to move there, if I ever wanted to play pro.
You finally made your SM-liiga debut for Lukko in the 2000/01 season. What do you remember of that game?
The interview after the game, I still get reminded about it from my former team mates =)
You spent the majority of the next few years with Lukko but also played in the Finnish 2nd and 3rd divisions as well as in Italy for Bolzano. Were you intending to move about so much or was it a case of moving so you could play?
When I was playing I always looked for a team that gave me the most ice time. I think that is the best way of developing as a player, play as much as possible.
After 05/06 which you split between Bolzano and Keikko-Laser, your final season in the SM-liiga was for KalPa. What do you remember of that year?
That was a bad move for me eventually. The coach that started in KalPa asked me to join them, but he got fired after 6 regular season games. After that it was all downhill for me, for some reason (still don’t know) the new coach hated me, in result that is a year i want to forget.
2007/08 was the year you came to Basingstoke. How did you end up leaving Keikko-Laser to sign thousands of miles from home?
(Former Bison defenceman) Kyle Peto called me and said there are no defenceman and that I could play as much as I wanted. I was sold and looking at it afterwards I had the most fun at my stay there so a Big THANK YOU! to all the people around (Bison) hockey!!!
That season was a very trying season for players and fans alike in Basingstoke but there were some highlights including the Knockout Cup run. Is there anything that stands out from your time in a Bison shirt?
So many good and funny memories that it would take a long time for me to write them here.
There were many rumours flying around that you received offers from Elite League teams to come back to Britain. Was that true and if so why did you decide not to return to British hockey?
It’s true that I had a couple of offers from teams there, I decided to play close to home. The team in Sweden (Asplöven HC) was only 130 km away from my home in Finland so I could drive back and forth that was the biggest reason why I didn’t come back to England
Is it weird to hear that you’re still so popular in Basingstoke despite such a short time playing for the Bison?
Yes it is really weird =)
After a season in Sweden, your final season as an active player was back in your home town as captain of Kiekko-Laser which finished in promotion to the Mestis (Finland’s 2nd division). What led to your decision to step back from being a player?
Playing started to feel like work, and I started a business here in Oulu. I own a gas station and it´s a part of St1 chain of stations.
You started the season as head coach of Kiekko-Karhut Liminka in 2. Divisioona (Finnish 4th division). What led to you getting that job?
I was curious to see if I could coach, but after a couple of months I saw that coaching was not for me and resigned.( 6-0 track record ) haha!!
Last question: any message for the Bison fans?
Do you guys miss being in the EIHL? I think the town deserves a team in the top league!!! I had the time of my life there and I want to thank each one of you guys for making me feel at home while I was there THANK YOU ALL!!!!