Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has a dream, and a speech prepared if it happens

Paul Skrbina
Nashville Tennessean

He's rehearsed the words a thousand times.

Sometimes while he's driving.

Sometimes while he's sleeping.

Sometimes when he wakes up.

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne wouldn't offer any excerpts, though. He's saving the whole thing for if and when the time comes when he finally fulfills his dream.

"I practice the winning speech in my head," Rinne said. "I catch myself sometimes when I'm driving around dreaming about winning a Stanley Cup. When I'm by myself or if I'm having a nap, sometimes things like that come to my mind."

Rinne has had plenty of time to think since the NHL season was paused March 12 in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he hasn't been dwelling on nostalgia. He's using the break to rest and relax with his girlfriend, Erika Parkko, and their dog, Pabla.

Rinne has plenty of hardware stored from his career. A Vezina Trophy from 2017-18. Three All-Star appearances. A trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Pretty much every goalie record in franchise history.

Oh, and the puck that made another of his dreams a reality, the one he sent into the net Jan. 9 at the United Center for his first career goal.

His next goal is the same goal he's always had: Win a Cup.

Back to the past

He knows time is ticking. He's 37. He's in his 14th season. He's essentially become Juuse Saros' backup. His .895 save percentage and 3.17 goals-against average are career lows by a wide margin.

Could this extra time off benefit him, especially given that he's played just 36 games this season? Perhaps extend his career?

"It's a fair question," Rinne said. "I haven't really thought about what happens if we come back this year or if it moves to next year. My goal is to improve my own performance. I'm not happy how I've played this year. My game has been a bit of a disappointment. That's the main thing in my head.

"I haven't thought about my career. Only thing in my head is I want to be ready. I still have next year on my contract, so I refuse to think any further than that."

Predators general manager David Poile is paid to think ahead. But when it comes to Rinne, he said he believes there's something left in the tank.

Back to the future

There's one gas station, one grocery store, spotty cell service.

This is Rinne's getaway. His quiet safe haven, a small island near his hometown that's reachable only by boat or ferry.

He bought a place there a few years back. He spends many a summer day and night on the island.

"It feels like you're going back in time," Rinne said. "Not a lot of people and beautiful nature and you're by the water."

Rinne used to fish a lot more than he does now. But for years he and a group of guys would make such trips to northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway, tents serving as their temporary abodes.

The island, which also features "a lot of other summer houses," Rinne said, overlooks his hometown.

He sometimes reminisces about his childhood, which he spent with his parents and two older sisters, including twin Anna, who was born a minute before Rinne and always has been quick to pull rank because of that.

"I was lucky. I always had a friend," Rinne said, adding he remains close with his sisters.

And friends sometimes could be, well, a bit unkind.

"Once a week we had a sweets day. We were allowed to have candy," Rinne said. "So because I was the youngest I was always the last to pick and they would steal all the good stuff. I never had a chance."

He also often found himself in the middle of his sisters, literally. Like when the family traveled anywhere in the car.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) blocks a shot during a game with St. Louis at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.

"They would always put me in the middle seat and they were be comfortable on the sides," Rinne said. "That was my spot."

Back to now

Rinne's place in Predators lore is pretty much wrapped up. He'll likely be the first player in franchise history to have his number retired. 

For now, the face of the organization remains in Nashville, contemplating a return home to Finland if the pandemic stretches much further.

On Wednesday afternoon, though, he was lounging on his couch, his girlfriend within earshot and their dog sleeping by his side. He apologized for calling a half-hour late for an interview.

He was covering his tracks with his sly sense of humor when asked which teammate would be the best quarantine partner, aside from Juuse Saros.

"Nick Bonino. I watch him on Instagram and he's always putting up stories where he's making these amazing meals," Rinne said. "He's really into food and wine and stuff like that. I wouldn't mind."

Then he interrupted himself, taking notice of the ears listening to him.

"My girlfriend is a great cook," he said with a laugh. "She's listening to me so I have to say that."

Rinne said he can't wait to see a show, go to a restaurant, play at Bridgestone Arena again.

"When this is over, that's the first thing on my mind: Go and actually see people and talk to them and be close to them," he said.

His dream, he hopes, will be there waiting. The speech already is done.

Reach Paul Skrbina at and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.