Kyle Turris trashes Finland hockey experience in interview; Finnish team says he’ll offer clarification

Last week, Ottawa Senators forward Kyle Turris, 23, returned from a two-month NHL lockout stint with Karpat Oulu in the Finnish SM-Liiga and had some very nice things to say about the experience to the Ottawa Sun:

“Oulu was awesome. The organization was great. They treated us really well. I was lucky to be put into a position where I was playing 20 minutes a game. It’s a great league, really competitive. Any team can win on any given night. It was fun and a great experience.”

Well, that sounds wonderful. Or it’s complete and utter bull feces. Because in an interview with freelance writer Jordan Winnett in the Globe & Mail, Turris trashed Oulu, and the team’s travel schedule and the food in Finland.

Now, Karpat Oulu says that Turris will issue a statement about his own statements, while Turris's agent said his client has been the victim of an "erroneous" story. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the story had been removed from the Globe & Mail website. We've been told it will be re-posted today, and that the G&M stands by its reporting.

The HF Boards’ Ottawa Senators message board captured this excerpt from the story:

“There’s nothing to do here. Nothing,” Turris says with a laugh. “If we’re not at the rink, we’re sitting around playing video games.”

For perspective, the day of the interview the sun rose in Oulu just after 10 a.m. and quickly set shortly after 2 p.m. On top of the four hours of sunlight, it’s also minus-20 C. “I’m going stir crazy over here.”

Many horror stories have been shed about the operation of the Kontinental Hockey League over in Russia in particular, but apparently the SM-Liiga isn’t the most comfortable or professionally run league either when compared to NHL standards.

“The travel here is horrendous. It’s worse than junior,” he said. “We’ll fly into Helsinki then hop in a bus for four to six hours, meanwhile, we’ll make three stops on a six-hour bus trip for no reason. It’s awful.”

Although North America will never be mistaken for its culinary prowess like France or Italy, Turris quickly found out that it can get worse.

“The food here is awful,” he explained. “On the road, we eat at truck stops. ABC truck stops. I’m not kidding. We file out of the bus and head off beside the highway for a buffet truck stop pregame meal. It’s ridiculous.”

The media operation isn’t any more comfortable. After his first game, Turris was taken upstairs to a podium in front of 100 sponsors in an audience looking at him not understanding a word.

“It’s so awkward. They don’t understand anything that you’re saying, staring at you confused,” he said. “I feel like a complete idiot, trying to use hand signals to help communicate.”

Yeah, about feeling like an idiot … Turris’s comments were picked up by American hockey media and made waves back in Finland. His agent denies that Turris disparaged Finland.

“The Globe & Mail article completely misrepresented Kyle’s experience in Finland,” said his agent, Kurt Overhardt, who called the article “erroneous” in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“He has nothing but positive things to say about the team, and the way they treated him.”

According to Finnish sportswriter Ilari Savonen, Turris is expected to issue a statement via the Karpat Oulu website on Wednesday morning local time.

General Manager Harri Aho wasn’t sure if the Turris quotes were exaggerated or misinterpreted. They came as a surprise to both the team’s head coach and players, as Turris hadn’t said anything of this critical nature during his time there.

According to Finnish journalist Matias Strozyk, Coach Hannu Aravirta said to STT:

"They were like a slap in the face. The fact here is that we don't have private planes to fly with. ... Maybe he doesn't understand our reality. We don't have any five-star restaurants en route to Pori."

Overhardt said that Turris called the team’s general manager himself on Tuesday for damage control.

So, perhaps, we’re dealing with someone exaggerating his experience for comedic effect … or, perhaps, a player that wasn’t aware his comments would be framed as they were … or, perhaps, someone finally being honest about his experience in Finland, getting made to look like a spoiled jackass from Helsinki to Ottawa and then back-skating like a demon, lest anyone think an NHL player taking a Finnish player’s job during a work stoppage could be that petulant.

Can’t wait to read that clarification …

Thanks to Matias Strozyk and Ilari Savonen for their help.

(Updated from a previous version, with agent's quotes.)