By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. – For rookie defenseman Niko Tuomi, the wait was well worth it.
Tuomi, 22, was looking around the Cypress Club inside Germain Arena on Monday with a child-like grin on his face as he participated in the Florida Everblades’ media luncheon.
“I’ve had to keep checking to see if this is real down here,” said Tuomi, a native of Echo Bay, Ontario, whose arrival was delayed while he was waiting for his immigration paperwork to clear. “First of all, from the weather, and when I came to the rink I couldn’t believe how nice the building was. Then the fan base and the booster clubs, it’s so welcoming down here. I’m really impressed, also with how the practices are run and the professionalism.”
Tuomi did not play in either of the two preseason games against the Texas Wildcatters over the weekend, but he did practice with the team after rolling into town last Friday afternoon. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder describes himself as a two-way defenseman who likes to get involved in the offense.
Like many of his teammates, Tuomi believes the stricter of enforcement of the rules adopted by the NHL, American Hockey League and ECHL will benefit those players who can skate well. Under that assumption, the legendary player Tuomi idolized would fare well today.
“I used to love the way Ray Bourque played, he was just so controlled and calm out there, and I’ve had a few coaches that have told me that’s who I remind them of,” Tuomi said. “I don’t know if I really want to say that because it might come across the wrong way, but I like defensemen that skate well and that look controlled and calm.”
Bourque was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame following an illustrious 22-year career, the bulk of those years as a member of the Boston Bruins. He finally won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, then retired shortly thereafter.
Tuomi could officially begin his professional career Friday night when the Everblades open the 2006-07 ECHL season at Germain Arena in the first of back-to-back games against Texas. Both games start at 7:30, and the Wildcatters have been practicing at Germain, opting to finish their training camp in Southwest Florida rather than make the round trip again.