By Carter Brooks
Photos by Lukijan Kuva,
With files from Juha Hiitela of Ilta-Sanoma
'Course deviation': Two words that aviation passengers typically never want to hear when cruising 35,000 feet above ground. However, thanks to Winnipeg Jets' superstar sniper Patrik Laine, that message turned into a blessing in disguise.
It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances on a flight to Helsinki, Finland that gave the 2017-18 Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy runner-up a chance to do what he does best, play the hero.
After departing Malaga, Spain relatively on time, passengers on a typical four hour and 45 minute European flight bound for Finland were disrupted by the captain's announcement that the aircraft would be making an unexpected stop in Paris, France, and when on the ground, a drunken passenger would be forcibly removed from the airplane.
According to reports from Finnish reporter Juha Hiitela of Ilta-Sanoma, the unruly traveller had allegedly consumed a few too many wobbly pops and had begun yelling, uttering threats, and behaving in a dangerous and obscene manner.
The inappropriate behaviour was brushed aside by a handful of passengers on the flight, however, it deeply affected approximately 20 young children seated in close proximity to the human disturbance.
It was at that point in which the beloved Laine made his presence felt. Travelling on the same Finland-bound flight, the 20-year-old offered to provide personal visits, sign autographs and take photos with each of the affected children, in an effort to help calm down the youngsters.
It was reported that the 44-goal man of Tampere, Finland helped distract and comfort each child with stories of his youth, while asking the travellers an array of questions - everything from who their favourite hockey player is, to which hockey team they cheer for. Although some of the passengers may not have been fans of the Jets before entering the aircraft, it's safe to say that they may have a new hockey hero now.
After landing in Paris, the unruly guest was arrested and escorted off the plane by members of the local French Police, before resuming its course to Finland.
Laine - who had been in Spain for a golf tournament - was flying back to Finland to participate in the 38th annual Bermuda Tennis Tournament with an array of fellow Finnish NHL stars, including Sasha Barkov, Mikael Granlund and long-time Winnipeg Jets' legend Teemu Selanne.
After putting together 80 goals and 134 points in his first two NHL seasons with the Jets, Laine became eligible for a long-term contract extension July 1st of this calendar year. With a handful of other hot-pressing issues to take care of - such as contracts for goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and defencemen Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba - Winnipeg General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will certainly have a busy summer on his hands. But hearing this story of his up-and-coming star will surely provide some smiles amidst his heavy workload.
The Winnipeg Jets begin their preseason schedule on Monday, September 17th against the Minnesota Wild at Bell MTS Place, before kicking off the 2018-19 regular season on Thursday, October 4th from St. Louis.