A lot of times in this business, you have to try to read the tea leaves. Niko Hovinen had deleted his Twitter account several days ago, didn’t dress for Friday night’s game, the Flyers had traded for Brian Boucher…and most importantly, there was a report in the Finnish publication Ilta-Sanomat that he was leaving the Titans to go play for KalPa in SM-liiga.
It would have almost seemed like the team’s reasoning for him missing Friday’s game — he was feeling under the weather — was to ignore the fact that Hovinen was obviously combing through Expedia trying to find the cheapest flight out of here. Except, not so much.
The first crack in all of this came when KalPa denied the initial report. The second? Well, it came from Hovinen himself. After the media was not allowed to speak with him on Saturday night — reasoning being they wanted to limit his exposure to people since he was sick — the 24-year-old walked into the interview room with a big smile on his face. He said he knew what I was going to ask him about…and well, he was right.
“I haven’t heard anything, I haven’t contacted (anyone). I was kind of shocked when I heard about it,” said Hovinen, who told us that he first heard of the report on Saturday, when a friend of his from Finland called him with the “news.”
“He’s like, ‘You’re going to this team?’ I was like, ‘No, I have no clue.'”
Hovinen said there hasn’t been any thought of going to Finland, and that the report was totally out of the blue for him. But it still isn’t difficult to make a case — especially on the heels of Johan Backlund doing the exact same thing last season — that it would make a lot of sense for him to go. He was asked specifically about the Flyers organization adding Brian Boucher, which essentially has put him at sixth on a six-man depth chart in goal.
“They make their decisions, and I just try to do my best out here,” he said.
“I haven’t really been lucky here (in North America with illness and injury.) But you know, that stuff happens. You just have to work your way up.”
Hovinen was then asked, given the perception that the Flyers aren’t exactly enamored with him, if he felt like they would give him a chance to do just that.”
“I hope so,” he said with a smile.
The Flyers did not return a request for comment made earlier this weekend.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com