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Lockout tough, but cold weather won't chill this Scandinavian

Finnish Jets forward OK with Winnipeg winter for Christmas

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While he draws on his patience trying to endure this lockout of National Hockey League players, Winnipeg Jets centre Olli Jokinen said Thursday he's having no trouble looking forward to Christmas.

The 34-year-old native of Kuopio, Finland and the rest of the 700-some-odd members of the NHL Players' Association have had no work days, no games and no pay now through 97 days of this labour impasse.

Jokinen has been a regular member of the crew working out and skating at the MTS Iceplex since it began, though just a few days into the dispute, he made it clear he'd do no more interviews and offer no more comments on the positions of the players or the state of negotiations.

The Christmas spirit, however, allowed the veteran of 1,042 NHL games to do an interview on Thursday, when he said the very white Christmas Winnipeg will experience this year is just fine with his family.

"It will be a lot of outdoor stuff," Jokinen said.

When he signed his two-year, $9-million free agent deal with the Jets in July, he said clearly geography was no issue for his Finnish family -- including his children, 12-year-old Alexandra, eight-year-old Emma and 20-month-old Keira -- which spent more than three years in Calgary and has a fair concept of what cold, winter weather was like.

"This year will be a regular Christmas, just a little bit longer than usual," Jokinen said. "Usually you get the 24th and 25th, not much more.

"We'll still skate here with the guys on the 24th, keep the routine going here with the practices. But there's lot of time to spend with the family and be outdoors."

This weekend, Jokinen wil also adopt the spirit of the season while indoors.

He'll be a "celebrity" walk-on extra into the party scene at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's The Nutcracker at its Saturday-night performance at 7 p.m.

While Jokinen would certainly rather be on the ice in front of crowds, he said he'll have enough going on at his own house over the holidays.

"We have some friends coming after Christmas to visit," he said.

The Jokinen family will also be welcoming the son of family friends from Helsinki, a young player who billeted with them last season on an exchange program while Jokinen was a member of the Flames.

"He lived with us last year while he played hockey and went to school in Calgary, and he's coming to visit," Jokinen said. "And that's for a couple of weeks."

By the end of that visit, a clearer picture of NHL season or no season might be apparent.

Jokinen, who lost at least $2.5 million in salary when the entire 2004-05 season was lost due to no labour agreement, has gone quiet about saying so, but he's eager to show that the Jets made a good move by signing him.

His actions and his presence at the Iceplex show he's serious about a trend -- his point production has risen in each of the last two seasons despite being past his 30th birthday.

Last season with the Flames, he scored 61 points, including 23 goals, in 82 games.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2012 C1

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