Christophe Archambault only played one season of junior hockey in Finland,
but it was enough to fall in love with the land of saunas, heavy metal
bands and northern lights.
Four years later, he found his way back again … kind of.
Archambault served as team host for the Finns at the 2017 IIHF World Junior
Championship, just as he did in 2015, helping ease them into life in
Montreal, while making sure he had the answer to any question the team had.
“My role consists of making sure everything is set for the team,”
Archambault said during the tournament. “It allows the team to focus on
playing its games and not having to worry about all the other logistics
details. From providing them with their practice schedule, to booking
transportation, to making sure they have coffee available in the morning,
my job is to make sure the Finns are happy.”
During the 2012-13 season, Archambault was the happy one. Playing for the
Jokerit U20 team in Helsinki, the Ste-Julie, Que., native became acquainted
with Finnish general manager Kimmo Oikarinen, a contact that would come in
handy when the World Juniors rolled around.
But how did Archambault end up in Finland in the first place?
“As a 17-year-old, I played just three games with Rimouski [in the Quebec
Major Junior Hockey League],” he says. “The following summer, I went to
train with Jokerit’s senior and junior teams to get ready for my next
season with the Océanic.
“Jokerit had asked me to stay and play with the junior team there, but I
wanted to give it another shot in Quebec. When I found out there was no
real plan for me with Rimouski, I packed my bags and flew back to Europe
for the season.”
Archambault immediately fell in love with Finland, a country he compares to
his home province – except for the lack of blondes in Quebec, he says with
a smile – because the climate is comparable, and the people love to watch
and talk hockey.
But he wasn’t going to Scandinavia totally blind; Archambault’s father Yves
works as technical director with Hockey Quebec and has been hosting
coaching clinics with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association for many years.
After word-of-mouth led Oikarinen to work through Hockey Quebec to find a
team host for the 2015 World Juniors in Montreal, he found Archambault, and
it was an easy decision to reprise his role this year.
“I sort of always considered Finland as my second home after playing
there,” he says. “I remember one of the hardest parts of living there was
integrating with the culture. But hockey really helped me with that and
gave me friendships that I will have for a lifetime.”
While supporting the team and assisting with whatever they need is
something all volunteer team hosts do, Archambault went a little further,
jumping on the ice with Finnish goaltenders during practice.
Oikarinen made the request, asking Archambault (who played 15 games of pro
hockey in France during the 2015-16 season) to keep the puck-stoppers
“When I was team host back in 2015, there were a few guys on the team who I
had played with or against,” he says. “But now, two years later I don’t
recognize many faces. So the first time I skated out onto the ice in
practice, I saw a few players looking at me that were a little surprised.
It was funny to see the goalies’ reactions when I started firing shots.
They were all a little shocked that their team host was there, but more so
that I knew how to shoot a puck.”
For Archambault, the experience was a memorable one in 2017, despite the
Finns’ ninth-place finish. And if the tournament happens to find its way
back to Quebec in the future, he’ll be ready.