Rinne’s absence from his friends’ trip will give them something more to do than swap stories.
“It will be fun to be together with the guys and watch the game,” Backstrom said.
That Backstrom has remained so close to his former teammate is a testament to Rinne’s patience and pleasant disposition.
Rinne was a lanky, unheralded teenager when he joined the developmental program for Karpat, a club based in the northern city of Oulu, near his hometown, Kempele. He was eventually promoted to the top team with little fanfare and an explicit understanding that he was there for one purpose: to serve as Backstrom’s backup.
Despite spending much of his time on the bench, Rinne instantly became a favorite among his teammates.
“I don’t think you’re going to find anybody who has something bad to say about him,” said Jussi Jokinen, a former teammate who is now a forward for the Florida Panthers. “He has a big heart, and he’s really a loyal friend.”
After starting out as Karpat’s third goaltender, Rinne was officially promoted to second string at the start of the 2003-4 season. Despite being on backup duty, Rinne continuously cheered his teammates with a wide smile. Although he knew that Rinne, who turned 21 that season, was essentially hoping to take his job, Backstrom developed a strong affinity for his backup.
“I can’t even remember a day that he wasn’t happy being at the rink,” said Backstrom, who spent nine of his 10 N.H.L. seasons with the Minnesota Wild and now plays in Finland with HIFK. “As a goalie…