I'll apologize in advance for the morose tone this blog is going to take, but that's the way it goes sometimes. As many of you know, I'm a native of Phoenix and a proud Coyotes fan. It is with great sadness that I dedicate this blog to the memory of Coyotes Massage Therapist Jukka Nieminen. He passed away in his sleep last Friday at the age of 40...the day before he was to be married. Sometimes life just really isn't fair. I'm hard pressed to think of a less-deserving man of this fate.
I really didn't know Jukka well. I met him during the summer of 2003 when I spent about a week helping Coyotes Equipment Manager Stan Wilson before the Coyotes' training camp that year. Stan's assistants were in L.A. at the team's rookie camp, leaving Stan alone to take care of the veterans who had already begun to arrive in Phoenix and take the ice before camp began. Jukka and Coyotes Trainer Gord Hart were holding down the fort in the training annex (a decent hike on the other side of the locker room from Stan's equipment domain). They would pop over to the equipment side to check in on the guys, to exchange soiled towels for clean towels, or just to chit-chat when they got bored or lonely. In all the times I saw Jukka that week, or the numerous times I've seen him since, I can't recall seeing him without a smile on his face. I'm sure I must've...I mean, who smiles all the time, right? But somehow I can't picture him without one. He was one of those guys that just lit up a room when he entered. He had such a positive energy and attitude that it was infectious. You couldn't help but smile. He was always laughing and joking around. It was like he had made it his mission to make you laugh, and he wouldn't rest until the mission was accomplished.
It just doesn't seem fair. How does a guy like that have everything taken away from him the day before the happiest day of his life? I know God has his plan for everybody, but sometimes it really seems to make no sense. He was a young guy who took good care of himself...to die at 40? I think if there's one thing I can take away from this, it's that life is precious. I'm a young man, but I've had quite a few friends younger than me pass away far too soon. It can happen at any time. The moral, I guess, is to live each day as if it were your last.
So, on that note, I'd like to tell all my friends and family that I love them. I thank God for the blessing of each day I have on this earth and I plan to enjoy every moment of it.
On an unrelated note, I would like to Congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the Stanley Cup. 49 years is a long time to wait between championships. Just ask the Cubs-they've waited twice that long (and counting) since their last World Series championship. Also, congratulations to the Hershey Bears and Cincinnati Cyclones for winning the Calder Cup (AHL) and Kelly Cup (ECHL) championships, respectively. Now it's official...hockey season is over.