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Nanook goes pro in home country

Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:13 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Nanook defenseman, Antti Virtanen will be taking his career back home to Finland where he is lined up to play for the Tampere (tom-pear) Tappara!

The Tappara or in English the battle axe, are the dominant professional hockey team in the Finnish Hockey League and they just won the 2021-2022 season championship.

Now the 6′0, 187 pound junior wasn’t always slated to head home to Finland as he was looking at leagues in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway and Sweden prior to signing to Tampere. However, Virtanen has a long lasting love for the Tappara as he and his father watched them play while he was growing up, not to mention his avid following of the Finnish league while attending UAF. Proud of his achievement, the defenseman said, “it feels great. It’s a big opportunity for me, a big challenge. But, you know I’ve been working hard all these years and I’m ready to take the next step and I’m really excited to see what’s ahead of me now.”

Starting his career in Finland where his family still resides, Virtanen came to the United States to play hockey back in 2017. He started out on the Sioux Falls Stampede in USHL and after one season, he stepped up in his career and in 2018, Virtanen became a Nanook. While at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Virtanen played in 97 games over 3 seasons, scoring 5 goals and accumulating 26 assists. Virtanen graduated from UAF in 2022, but he still held a year of eligibility in the NCAA due to the pandemic cancelling the 2020-2021 season.

However, it has always been Virtanen’s plan to return home to Finland to play hockey. Calling the experience “unreal” Virtanen will now get to join “his favourite team” as they begin their next season as defending champions of the league.

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