Gopher Hockey Q&A: Erik Haula

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Didn't have a chance to read Erik Haula's Q&A in our game program for the Omaha series? No worries, check it out now. We talked to Haula about recently being named an alternate captain, coming from Finland and growing up with a dad who coached football. 

You were named an alternate captain earlier this season. How much does earning an honor like that mean to you?
"It means a lot. When I came here as a freshman, I knew that I wanted to become a leader with this team on and off the ice. I've been waiting for this opportunity, and I'm excited and proud to finally have it."  
As a sophomore last season you led the Gophers in scoring, and you're on pace for even more points this season. What is the biggest factor to your fast start this season?
"I think it is just being comfortable with the team. We have a lot of the guys back from last year, and I'm playing with the same guys and the same power play. I practice with good guys, and that helps me get comfortable."
You were able to make a major impact when you first entered the program as a freshman. What made you so effective?
"I got off pretty good start to the season, but I had a slump which I feel is common with freshmen. I feel like playing at the World Juniors helped a lot. I had a variety of competition levels, playing at Shattuck, the USHL, and in Finland."
When did you first hear about Minnesota hockey? Was it back in Finland or when you arrived at Shattuck-St. Mary's?
"I heard about college hockey in Finland. When I really started to look into it I was in Minnesota. When I went to Shattuck-St. Mary's, one of my good buddies grew up in Minnesota, and he gave me the 2002 championship video that they made. That was the first time I really got into Minnesota hockey."
How does your family follow your games back In Finland? Are they able to get over to Minnesota to see you play?
"They watch the live streams when they are available, and the highlight videos after the game. They make it here twice a year. My dad was here for the Wisconsin games, and my mom was here a few weeks ago."
What is the one thing from Finland you wish was in Minnesota?
"Finnish chocolate. My parents do a pretty good job of bringing me that stuff, it is really good. Other then that, there isn't one think I really miss except for friends and family."
Is there one place you can't wait to visit when you get a chance to go back to Finland?
 "It is really just going home and staying in the bed where I grew up. All I can think about when I go home is hanging out with siblings and friends."
They are a lot of people in the Twin Cites with Finnish decent. Do you hang out with people from Finland while you are in Minnesota?
"I have stayed in contact with Mikael Granlund a lot now that he came over here. We grab dinner here and there when he comes to Minnesota. It is always fun to hang out with a fellow Finn. Especially knowing that he has a pretty good shot of playing with the Wild. It is nice to talk about those things with him."
You were drafted in 2009 by the Minnesota Wild. Does playing in Minnesota help you follow the Wild?
"Being in the same city as the team helps you get the vibe of how they are doing from the people of Minnesota. Also, you can watch the games. They are all televised on FOX Sports North. It helps a lot with staying in contact with the team."
Your father coached American Football in Finland. Did the Americans on the team help you become familiar with college in America?
I lived with American guys who went to college. When I talked to them about it they said only positive things about it. It just enhanced the fact that I wanted to come here."
You are a big New England Patriots fan, what is the biggest reason for why you root for them?
"I am a Patriots fan because of Tom Brady. I would say he is one of my favorite athletes. I always admired the way he came from being a late draft pick and worked his way up to being an elite quarterback. I also love the Vikings. I have been here so long, and all of my roommates are Vikings fans."

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