Ice Hockey world champion Janne Pesonen

Ice hockey world champion Janne Pesonen, 34, has achieved nearly everything in the hockey rink. Alongside hard physical training, he practices mind control. When Pesonen plays in the right frame of mind, he flies on the ice.

To counterbalance the physical sport, Janne Pesonen has always needed relaxation in the peace of nature.

“Fly-fishing got me hooked immediately. For me, it’s a way of life that takes my mind off the hectic pace and stress.”

Pesonen plans all his vacations around fishing. The mere throwing of the fly calms the mind, it’s not so much about catching the fish. In nature, you live in the moment, and that’s the essence of everything.

”I might fish for weeks without getting a decent catch, even if I did everything perfectly. That’s when you feel small and humble. Nature teaches you that everything is not in your own hands.”

After weeks in the wild, even fishing may make you tired. Still, already halfway home Pesonen will begin to dream of a new fishing trip. And if he can’t go fishing, he will tie flies. When last season was interrupted by a tough contact situation that resulted in a chest muscle rupture, fly tying kept Pesonen sane. Indeed, the hobby plays an important part in maintaining Pesonen’s mental health.

”Sometimes when I lie in my bed and I can’t sleep, I go back to my fishing trips in my mind. I relive the moments and feelings. It makes me relax. Before I even notice, I fall asleep. The next day I feel rested.”

In addition to the Finnish Elite League, this left winger from the small municipality of Suomussalmi has played in national leagues in Sweden and Russia as well as the NHL. And besides the World Championship, Pesonen has won the KHL Championship and four Finnish Championship gold medals. This season he plays for Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss National League A.

When the team mates prepare for matches by shouting, roaring and spurring each other, Pesonen sits in the locker room quietly and clears his mind.

”I think about the empty, open water or the black water on the shore of the pond by our summer cottage. I close my eyes and picture myself in a place where there’s only peace and quiet. When I open my eyes, I’m ready to step in the rink, meet the audience’s applause, and give my best on the ice.”

Although Pesonen has achieved a lot in his career, he wants to experience the feeling of victory over and over again. Pesonen describes himself as a perfectionist who loves the game and always plays to win.

“Already at a young age, I learnt an important lesson. If I start something, I give 100 percent, or otherwise I rather not do it at all.”

A perfectionist also understands that no game goes perfectly. When watching recorded games, there’s always room for improvement to be found. The same is true everywhere else in life. But it’s exactly personal development and improving his own performance in the rink that motivate Pesonen forward in life.

Besides perfectionist, Pesonen is also an incurable optimist. He faces failures with his head up high and reflects what he could learn from them, how he could develop and get even stronger. There’s no shortcut to happiness, but lows can be overcome with hard work.

Although Pesonen’s professional career has lasted for 15 years already, ice hockey is still his passion, and he feels lucky to be able to do it for a living.

“As long as I play, I give the game 100 percent. And my dream is to play for as long as possible.”

Aggressive and dangerous situations are also part of the fast-paced contact sport. Pesonen is aware of the risks of the game, but he doesn’t worry about injuries in advance.

”An ice hockey player should never be afraid of the game. Fear makes you weak and it makes you play bad. If I have to throw myself in front of a puck that moves 150 km/h, it will definitely hurt. But it feels good to know that with a small sacrifice, I manage to save a goal. That feeling is much bigger than the pain caused by the puck.”

Small blows in the rink are also a source of strength. Pesonen talks about big feelings, like anger, happiness, and love. Happiness and anger give strength, and if that energy is channelled correctly, you’re in a strong position. It’s much easier to achieve the right state of mind if you get a small blow every now and then.

In a perfect game, there’s always a lot of feeling, action, and shots at the goal. One hardly remembers a perfect game afterwards.

”I play best when I don’t think too much. I know what I have to do and I just go to the rink and do it. If I had to think about my moves during the game, I would be late all the time.”

In the right mindset, it feels like you’re flying on the ice – there’s no tiredness or pain. Pesonen talks about a zone mode where he doesn’t have to think about anything else but being in the hockey rink. When the head is empty, it’s like the game plays itself.

Text: Miika Koskela
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