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Jokinen hits the ice with kids, mulls over future in Winnipeg

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Olli Jokinen spends much of his free time these days unpacking boxes, getting his family settled and setting up shop in his new digs here in Winnipeg.

But what he wants more than anything right now -- other than a sense of normalcy in his new surroundings – is to be pulling on a Jets’ jersey and playing meaningful games come October.

Jokinen, one of the Jets’ key free-agent signings this summer, was on the ice at MTS Iceplex on Thursday blasting pucks and working up a good sweat while his two daughters, Alexandra and Emma, twirled around on their figure skates and occasionally slid passes to him for one-timers into an open net.

And when he met with the local media for the first time afterward the conversation, not surprisingly, turned to the ongoing discussions between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires Sept. 15.

"As a player, we just want to get a fair deal and we prepare like camps are going to start on the 22nd (of September). That’s our goal," Jokinen began. "You can’t have any other thoughts in your head. This is our job and our job is to be ready when training camps start and if it doesn’t start on time you stay ready.

"At this time of the year if the camp started tomorrow 99 per cent of the players would be ready to go. Everybody’s skating, everybody’s getting ready. There’s no reason to think otherwise."

Big free-agent addition to the Winnipeg Jets, Olli Jokinen was on the ice for a skate at the MTS Iceplex Thursday.

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Big free-agent addition to the Winnipeg Jets, Olli Jokinen was on the ice for a skate at the MTS Iceplex Thursday. (WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Photo Store

'Canadian people are super nice'

Jokinen said that unlike the last lockout, his plan is to remain in Winnipeg until November or December before looking for other options. In 2004-05, when the NHL season was wiped out because of the labour war, he suited up for Kloten of the Swiss League, then Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League and finally IFK Helskinki.

Now a part owner of IFK, he said that would be his Plan B if the lockout was to drag on into the winter.

"My Plan A is to settle in here and put the girls in school and train here," he said. "There’s no need to have a Plan B yet. For a lot of the players this is the only thing we want to do... we have to keep playing. I don’t think it’s going to be like last time when most of the guys went to play right away. Now we’re going to sit tight and wait and then maybe later it’s time to make those decisions."

Jokinen’s wife Katerina was in Winnipeg about a month ago and bought a house for the family. The whole clan arrived a week ago and their first impressions are all favourable.

"Canadian people are super nice," Jokinen said.

"It’s been overwhelming to come here... the people are so nice here and everybody makes us feel at home and we’ve only been here for a week. It feels like we’ve been here for months already."

History

Updated on Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 5:39 PM CDT: Adds story

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