Antti Raanta was along for the ride last season as the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup championship in six years, but according to one report sitting in the passenger seat didn’t suit the Finnish netminder all that well.
In fact, he was so displeased with his role as a Black Ace—a player who is kept with the team during the playoffs strictly for practice purposes—that he apparently was rooting for the Hawks to get knocked out of the playoffs.
Speaking to the Finnish paper Satakunnan Kansa, Raanta, who is now with the New York Rangers as Henrik Lundqvist’s likely backup, came clean about his frustrations (translation courtesy of Vesa Ranaten).
“With fingers crossed I hoped Nashville would beat us in four so I could get back to Finland sooner,” he said. “I was so pissed.”
Raanta is now disputing the accuracy of the report. According to Mark Lazerus, he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was frustrated when he was called up from AHL Rockford for the playoffs knowing he was unlikely to see action, but being welcomed by his teammates made him feel better.
“I’m not that kind of guy that I would say something like that, and hope my team to lose, even if I’m not paying goalie,” Raanta said.
You can understand his frustration no matter what he did or didn’t say. At one point in his career, Raanta was seen as a possible challenger to Corey Crawford for the team’s starting job. He put together decent numbers in relief during the past two seasons, going 34-20-9 with a .912 save percentage and 2.41 GAA, but he never managed to unseat Crawford. Worse, he lost his backup spot to Scott Darling after a couple of rough outings last season, leaving him to stew in the press box while Darling subbed for the struggling Crawford during that Nashville series.
The problem, according to Raanta in the Satakunnan Kansa story, was that Joel Quenneville wasn’t a fan.
“I noticed that coach didn’t like me, and in that position it is pretty difficult to fight the windmills,” he said.
Ranaten, the editor of the Finnish sports magazine Ilta-Sanomat, was surprised by the netminder’s candor. “Raanta’s statement is, softly said, odd—even from a Finnish goalie.”
Raanta will get a chance to explain this incident to his former teammates when the Rangers open the season in Chicago on October 7.