When you run out of gas in your tank, then you have to be honest with yourself. It is often the most important observation in the career of a top athlete.
Lasse Kukkonen, 38, based his entire 20-year career as a top hockey player on two things. For infinite toughness and unyieldingness.
He was never the biggest or most skilled man in the trough, but he was certainly the hardest.
The moment the fire is over, we start talking in capital letters. As Kukkonen did on Monday when he publicly announced the end of his long hockey career.
- Words and deeds must meet. During the season, I found that passion was no longer so easy to find. I didn't want to have to force myself to find it, Kukkonen said.
- A couple of weeks before the transfer limit of the Finnish Championships, I found the spark and energy to prepare myself once again the way I want to do it. All-in, and then it was here.
What makes the situation exceptional is that the Flyer’s locker room already knew in February what was ahead. First Kukkonen told his decision to coach Mikko Manner, then to the whole team during the regular weeks of the regular season.
- Now I no longer feel overwhelmed, and I can even talk about it. That's when my eyes got pretty wet. So many dear people, both players and the maintenance team.
Something about Kukkonen's appreciation is given by the fact that after hearing the news, the Kärppie team secretly ordered thank-you shirts for their captain.
They were to be used after the Finnish Championship championship was resolved, which was played with a strong emotion for Kukkonen.
Although Kukkonen was unable to play his last season due to the corona pandemic, he stood behind his decision to quit. Kukkonen had started a quiet resignation work with his mental coach Toni Mets already in the autumn of 2017.
- The idea arose that we would not be playing here for ten more years. I felt that the laws of physics were already beginning to come against me, Kukkonen admits.
- We started to think a lot about who I am now and what I want to be 5-10 years from now. This path started from the kind of ideas that those conversations sparked.
Wife Piritta and three daughters were present when Lasse Kukkonen announced the decision of her hockey career on Monday.
Photo: Ville Honkonen
Kukkonen's merit list is so breathtaking that you can't go through it in an instant. The career has required very big sacrifices - especially from Piritta’s wife and the family’s three daughters - but it has also yielded a really great deal. As captain, Kukkonen has led hundreds of different players in both Kärpi and Leijon.
When you ask the most notable of them, who have grown into lifelong friends, the answer pops up right away.
- I'm actually thinking about that today. Jari Viuhkola and Mika Pyörälä are friends with whom many dreams were achieved. And definitely Juhamatti Aaltonen.
When Kukkonen leaves the parade door to the rear left, it also leaves a big vacuum in the Kärppie locker room. Patching it is an almost impossible task.
But Kukkonen says that he has received even more from the club than he believes he will leave in his legacy.
- I've got to be honest myself in this environment. Each booth visited to know that I am between the time a peculiar personality. Never before has anyone looked around. This is my second home, Kukkonen sums up.
Big words from a superman who has been playing with the same shoulder pads since 1996 - even at the risk of a high risk of injury.
In the Finnish national team, Kukkonen won, among other things, three Olympic medals and World Cup gold.
Photo: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva
The most asked question from Kukkonen at Monday's press conference was guaranteed to be this: what are you going to do next? And as with the gaming career, the defendant was not left speechless.
Kukkonen has quietly founded KukkoLasse Oy, which bears his name, where he and his wife form a board.
- I have also had mental coaching career in the final stages of training, Kukkonen said.
Over the last couple of years, Kukkonen has been a sought-after performer for companies for which he has given lectures on leadership and good team spirit.
Now Kukkonen's heart returns to mentoring young athletes - especially hockey players.
- At the moment, individual coaching is my own thing - the competition is wider, tougher and things happen quite a lot in public as well. I believe I can be of help to many young people in that field.
The speech is determined and accompanied by flashes on several occasions of the words passion and dream. Just like Kukkonen's miniature career.
- My dreams are in player development. In group dynamics and how to work with a team. For team coaching myself, I don’t feel the fire, at least not yet.
One chapter in the history of the Oulu Flies ended on Monday, when Lasse Kukkonen (second right) announced that he would end his puck career.
Photo: Ville Honkonen
Born: September 18, 1981 in Oulu (age 38 years)
Achievements: Three Olympic medals (silver from Turin 2006, bronze from Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014). World Championship 2011, World Championship silver 2007 and 2016, World Championship bronze. Four Finnish championships.
Matches: 651 matches in the SM League, 159 matches in the NHL