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Jan 7, 2020, 7:05:00 AM

#FreeNiku is now #NikuFreed

It’s been a popular hashtag among Winnipeg Jets fans on Twitter ever since Sami Niku made his NHL debut a couple of seasons ago.

Ever since its inception, the trending hashtag has become popular on social media, indicating that fans want the Finnish defenceman put back into the lineup of the big club. Last January 6, the hashtag received an upgrade, fittingly at the Bell Centre in Montreal where Niku scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game two seasons ago.

#NikuFreed.

Niku will make his season debut for the Winnipeg Jets when they face the Montreal Canadiens. They will also look forward to ending their flop, winning just three out of their past eleven matches. His inclusion in the lineup has been one of the most anticipated events in the team.

‘I’m feeling really good’, said Niku in a media event after the team’s morning skate in Montreal. ‘I just need to show that I belong here and play my own game’. Looking at it from a hockey player’s perspective, the last months for Niku have been the player’s version of hell.

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A car accident prevented him from taking part in any and all practice with the team. He would, nonetheless, play in a preseason game then be immediately sidelined due to a groin injury. ‘It hasn’t been easy of course… I’m not used to this. I’m never injured. It has been hard but nothing I can do really, just bad luck. I was working out really hard when I was injured and now I am good to go’, said Niku.

‘That was the goal after the summer, that I would spend the whole year up here and then injuries happened and I was down with it. Now, I’m here and I need to play good and stay here’. Just as he was preparing for his much-awaited return to the league, a report from a Finnish media outlet suggested that ‘Niku was unhappy with how he was being handled in the organization — going as far to say that he was readying a trade request’.

‘Niku was not at all satisfied with the situation and did not hide his disappointment’, said the article according to translations. ‘Earlier this fall, Niku and his camp made it clear to the Winnipeg club management that the player was not happy with the situation. Before the latest injury, Niku camp thought that Christmas would be the deadline of the NHL call. If there was no invitation, the player would be ready to request a transfer to another club’.

The article even quoted Niku and said that he ‘struggled with motivation’. He later said that he takes his job very seriously. He also said that playing in the AHL has been ‘a little too easy’ and makes everything ‘hell hard’.

The article also made mention of his hot temper and an argument between him and Huddy. Again, the article said that Niku said that it was nothing but confusion and that he later apologised for his actions.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said in an interview that those were nothing but controversy. ‘He’s a good young player who, like all of them, think they should be in the NHL at 14. He’s going to be a good NHL player for the Winnipeg Jets for a long time. I like the guy’.

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Words: Carlos Corpus

Images: PA