Kasimir Kaskisuo stops pucks and develops his personal brand on YouTube: "Hopefully I did not have a big role in Babcock's firing"

NHL, SHL / Haastattelu
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 12: Kasimir Kaskisuo #50 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to action against the Boston Bruins in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 12, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2. (Pho
Kuva © Getty Images
Kasimir Kaskisuo returned to Europe after North American years. He is not just a goalie but also vlogger.

Vlog-star, vegan & goaltender

Kasimir Kaskisuo stops pucks and develops his personal brand on YouTube: "Hopefully I did not have a big role in Babcock's firing"

Riku Isokoski


Getty Images, Leksands IF


A total of 240 Finnish players have played in the NHL over the years, but few of them have not gained so much attention in the Finnish fanbase. One of those players is Kasimir Kaskisuo, who has only played one full game and about a 15 minute stint in the NHL.

Despite he is a little bit unknown among Finnish fans, Kaskisuo is a very modern era hockey player who is far from a traditional stereotype of a silent and hermit goaltender. One indication of his open-mindedness was the departure at a young age to North America, where Kaskisuo eventually found a home and family.

Kaskisuo began his journey in North America in the fall of 2013, but for this season he signed a two-year contract with the Swedish team Leksands IF. His start in Dalarna has been promising.

"I did not really know where I was coming to. Their last season here in the SHL was good and now we've had a good start in the Champions Hockey League."

"I think the SHL should be a tough league and all the teams here are probably good. I have been positively surprised about the level of professionalism and the players' skill level."

But what kind of a person is Kasimir Kaskisuo, who never played in his native Finland's men's league or in the Finnish junior national teams before his move to North America?

Kaskisuo began his playing career in Etelä-Vantaan Urheilijat junior teams and at the age of ten made the move to the junior teams of mighty Finnish club Jokerit. However, he got stuck in intense competition for playing time, because the club had many good goalie prospects in the same age group. This played a big part in his desicion to move to the United States.

"I played three years in the Jokerit U20 team and I did not get so much ice time when there were guys like Kevin Lankinen, Joonas Korpisalo and Frans Tuohimaa. Of course it annoyed me when I did not get a chance to play while I still had one year left of my junior career. My goal was to play in North America and then I heard about college hockey, and that really inspired me. After all, it was good decision to leave."

His first team in North America was Minnesota Wilderness of the NAHL, the second highest ranked junior league in the United States. Kaskisuo found his new home and family in the smallish town of Cloquet.

"Everything was quite new and playing in the United States was a dream come true. Even though the town was quite small I enjoyed playing and living there. It was an important turnaround for my career", Kaskisuo said.

After one NAHL season Kaskisuo moved to University of Minnesota-Duluth. Kaskisuo tried economics and communications but studying was not quite his thing.

"After family living I moved to live independently with all the boys there. I have never been a good student and in fact I did not go there to study. College hockey was absolutely top class, especially in our NCHC conference. All the circumstances were as good as any, so it was quite a professional feeling."

“College hockey was absolutely top class, especially in our NCHC conference. All the circumstances were as good as any, so it was quite a professional feeling.”

Promising performances in college hockey got NHL teams interested in Kaskisuo. Finally he signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in March of 2016. Career in the NCAA ended after two seasons.

"I started college hockey almost at the age of 21 and games there went well, so NHL teams had some interest. I felt that I was ready to play as a professional and I did not want to waste years in the university. I got what I needed and I was ready to be a pro."

Kaskisuo arrived to the world's most followed hockey organization at quite an interesting time, because in the summer of 2016 Maple Leafs had selected the upcoming superstar Auston Matthews as the number one pick in the NHL entry draft. Maple Leafs' development camp was quite a show when Matthews and another young star Mitch Marner stole the attention.

"Media rally was pretty wild, even on the Toronto scale when Matthews and Marner were there. If playing in North America was my first dream, the second one was to be at an NHL training camp."

The training camp in September gave some perspective on how long the road to the NHL would be. At that moment it was obvious that Kaskisuo would be assigned to farm system but instead of AHL team Marlies, the Finnish goalie was send to Florida with the ECHL team Orlando Solar Bears.

"Both of the Leafs' last season's AHL goalies returned and so I knew that I would be sent to the ECHL. When I played in Orlando I did not really enjoy it, but in hindsight, it was good that I was sent there and got some playing time."

"It was quite a razzle there at times but mentally I returned from there much stronger. Overall the season went well and after all Orlando is very nice place to live compared to other ECHL cities. However, luckily I got out of there."

There have been rumours over the years about many ECHL players' unprofessional attitude towards athleticism and the league is sometimes considered as a cluster of enforcers.

"Partially those rumours are true but there are also young players. Maple Leafs uses their ECHL affliate quite well, but in bad teams there are a lots of poor players and sometimes games were pure entertainment. Yeah, sometimes it was weird to watch how some of the players lived outside of the rink."

“When I played in Orlando I did not really enjoy it, but in hindsight, it was good that I was sent there and got some playing time.”

Kaskisuo got his spot in the Marlies in the spring of 2017 and the following season went almost entirely in the American Hockey League. With the exception of the start of the season, Kaskisuo did not play for the Marlies but for the Chicago Wolves.

"I started the season with Garret Sparks in the Marlies but after couple of games the Leafs acquired Calvin Pickard from the Vegas Golden Knights which was a bad thing for me. Luckily the Leafs found a new team for me in the AHL so I did not have to go to the ECHL again."

In the fall of 2018 Kaskisuo got a permanent role with the Marlies. Early part of the season was tough between the pipes however, which might have been effected by the birth of his first child near Christmas time.

"The fall was difficult and my wife was pregnant. Our daughter was born just before Christmas and after that I found my rhytm. The rest of the season went really well and in the playoffs we made it to the conference finals. Things were really rolling in Toronto and I got some confidence that I could play in the NHL."

During the 2018–19 season Kaskisuo made it to some Leafs games as a backup goalie but the actual debut between the pipes was still waiting. After a strong season finish in the Marlies, Kaskisuo had high expectations for the 2019–20 season.

"The early part of the season started on a good note again and Maple Leafs' backup goalie Michael Hutchinson had a little bit rough start to the season, so I got a call up. My first NHL game was a deserved start, so it was not due to some kind of injury fill-in."

However, Kaskisuo's first NHL game did not go well because home team Pittsburgh Penguins scored six goals behind the Finnish goalie, while the Leafs scored only once. Despite the result Kaskisuo remembers his dream coming true with good feelings.

"In my mind the game went well, even though the result was not what we wanted. I felt that I could play in that league. Of course I hoped that I would have got some more games but after that I was sent to the AHL."

Maple Leafs' early season was eventful when firing of head coach Mike Babcock was speculated greatly in the media. Eventually, GM Kyle Dubas kicked out Babcock soon after the Penguins loss.

"My NHL debut was his second to last game with the Maple Leafs – hopefully I did not have a big role in Babcock's firing", Kaskisuo laughed.

As a teammate of young superstars Matthews and Marner he saw the competence and skill level of the absolute top of the hockey world from a close distance.

"There was always energy in the Maple Leafs and it was fun to watch young stars' daily routines, but also the great pressure put on them was visible. Their level is hard to understand if you do not see it live in practices or games. Television does not tell it properly."

“My NHL debut was his second to last game with the Maple Leafs – hopefully I did not have a big role in Babcock's firing.”

Kaskisuo is not an ordinary hockey player because he has developed his own personal brand and filmed behind the scenes material shown on his popular YouTube videos. The idea about his own videoblog began to make progress in the playoff bubble in Toronto a year ago.

"Yeah, it started from the bubble. As a third goalie of Maple Leafs it did not hinder playing and then there was a long break of hockey games so the fans were hungry for more hockey. I had seen how some NBA players had filmed their own life from their bubble and uploaded videos to YouTube so I decided to film for myself, this kind of a once in a lifetime event."

"Fans loved the videos and it was really fun to do. I adopted things from other vlogging athletes and all the feedback has been very positive. Vlogging has also balanced my own life and luckily the team here in Leksand has also liked it and maybe this has brought some new fans also."

Kaskisuo wants to bring the fans closer to hockey team's everyday activities with his videos.

"As a youngster my favourite tv shows were HBO's Road to the Winter Classic and all the other behind the scenes series'. Now I can do that kind of stuff by myself and grow the popularity of our team, our league and hopefully the game of hockey all over the world."

"I learn a little bit more and more in every video and now my equipment is also fine, so this has been very enjoyable."

Vlogging has also broadened Kaskisuo's way of thinking about hockey culture and the goalie has noticed that hockey is pretty far behind other North American professional sports in the case of renewal and individuality.

"I have noticed while making videos that hockey has a lack of personalities, especially when compared to other sports leagues. In the NFL, NBA and MLB big personalities have branded everything to the very last bit and it's a big business for them. I have tried to bring something like that to hockey."

Kaskisuo thinks that hockey desperately needs more personal brands like what he has done during the last months.

"In my case everything has went so well and fans have liked it so I think my sense is right. In hockey there is still quite a strong old boys club mentality and that is why I have tried to bring some personality in to it. I do not want that hockey would be just watching games so maybe after couple of years more players do something like this what I do now."

Kaskisuo is a brave reformist in the hockey family in other ways as well, because he has for example told in his videos about his veganism, which is not clearly an obvious thing among hockey players.

"I watched a couple of documents about veganism and researched more information about it. The decision to turn to a vegan felt right for my own health but also for the globe and animals."

"Also my daughter Fox has a rare but quite a light disease. She was told she would have to be on a medication for the rest of her life, but all the doctors' test results were much better six months after we decided to be vegans. She does not need the medication anymore and that in itself is a big enough reason for us to be vegans."

Kaskisuo thinks that turning vegan has been a very good decision and generally he feels much better.

"Every day feels good when energy levels are the same and when you have eaten much healthier. Yeah, veganism has clearly helped my career and health. Last season the Predators and now the team here in Leksand have helped me really well, that there is food to eat."

“I do not want that hockey would be just watching games so maybe after couple of years more players do something like this what I do now.”

Kaskisuo left the Maple Leafs organization after the bubble playoffs and found a new NHL team in Tennessee. However, the two regular goalie jobs in Nashville Predators were held tight by two other Finns, Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne.

Due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19 NHL teams had to have more backup players than normally, so Kaskisuo got a clear position as a third goaltender. Kaskisuo admits that a season without almost any ice time was mentally tough.

"No, it was not a fun season. Of course I must be thankful that the season could be played in general and I got a chance to be with a NHL team, but it was not a great situation. My practices were early in the morning with other extra players and the minimal playing time was frustrating."

"Mentally it was tough for all those who were in the taxi squad. Hopefully, this kind of situation never occurs again."

Kaskisuo did not get ice time in the AHL because the Predators did not have any depth in their goalie pool.

"They had really nobody who could come to replace me. Once there were just three goalies in the organization Juuse, Peksi and me. When Juuse was injured for couple of weeks and we were in an intense playoff race they were forced to play Peksi. Maybe I would have gotten some ice time had the situation been different."

Being a teammate of longtime Predators superstar Rinne was however a dream come true for Kaskisuo who praises the now retired fellow Finn.

"Well it was amazing to work with Peksi every day. I had posters of him on my wall when I was young and he is such a big name in Finnish hockey. All the rumours are true, he is the very best teammate and human being. You better have your eyes open when Peksi practiced."

The new starter of the Predators, Saros, also made an impact on Kaskisuo. Overall a season with two top class Finnish goalies compensated nicely the negative effects of limited ice time.

"Juuse had an absolute monster of a season and even in practices you saw that he had it all. Both Juuse and Peksi made my season much easier when I got a chance to work with them."

“Hockey feels nice again, the team appreciates me and it has been cool to hang around the arena.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began Kaskisuo has not played much. From March 2020 until the start of this season, Kaskisuo played just 15 minutes in official games. Because of the lack of games Kaskisuo needed a place where he could get lots of games and responsibility.

"Probably I could have gotten an NHL contract, but free agency opened so late this summer and of course awareness of my own level affected a lot. That possible NHL contract would have been a coin toss so I had to make a decision where I can develop and get games."

"In the AHL goalies are changed for almost every game and there are lots of politics about playing own prospects. That is why I think it was a good decision to come back to Europe."

Kaskisuo found his new team in the smallish Swedish town Leksand and he has really enjoyed the team's atmosphere. Playing also feels good.

"I was a business button last season but here in Leksand the mentality has been very fresh. Hockey feels nice again, the team appreciates me and it has been cool to hang around the arena. Hopefully I will be more mature for a full-time NHL role after playing here."

How about Kaskisuo's life after his playing career? In his videos Kaskisuo speaks in English with a strong American accent, and it is clear that he has adopted a North American lifestyle and identity. Now it looks like Kaskisuo will stay in North America with his family after hockey.

"Target is to find some place there. Me and my wife both like Nashville a lot and it is a good option. After eight years playing in North America it has started to feel like a home."

Kasimir Kaskisuo got a chance to come to his native Finland after a long break this summer, but plans are still strongly on the other side of the Atlantic.

"We visited Finland for the first time in three years and my own relatives saw my daughter but of course when I have been in North America for so long it feels right place for me."

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