MORRISVILLE, N.C. — Remember how disappointed Sebastian Aho was after the Carolina Hurricanes' last loss in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs? How mad he was after being ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning?
The pain and anger didn't go away quickly.
"I tried to use that fire in this offseason," Aho said Tuesday. "You've got to learn from those things. It's been three years now that we've had good years but not quite good enough and I truly believe those experiences will help us in the future. We just have to remember how it feels to lose."
Aho said that in an interview session at Wake Competition Center. No Zoom. No phone hookup. The Canes center came off the ice after an informal on-ice preseason workout with a group of his teammates, sat down on a bench and answered questions from a pair of reporters.
For the first time since September 2019, there was a sense of normalcy. NHL training camps will start later this month and the regular season in October. The Canes will return to the Metropolitan Division with a regular-season schedule comprised of 82 games.
So much changed during the coronavirus pandemic. Life has been anything but normal. The NHL's 2019-20 regular season was brought to a halt by the pandemic in March 2020, and the 2020-21 regular season did not begin until January 2021 and lasted 56 games.
In September 2019, Aho returned to Raleigh from Finland and answered questions about the offer sheet made to him by the Montreal Canadiens that summer. This September, he was asked about another offer sheet — the one made by Carolina to forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Canadiens on Aug. 28.
The Canes matched the 2019 offer to Aho. The Canadiens, after taking their allotted seven days to make a decision, with zero media leaks, then passed on Kotkaniemi, not matching the offer, taking two draft picks in return and adding another young Finnish player to the Canes' mix.
Aho, 24, said he has never played in international competition with Kotkaniemi, 21, and does not know him well. He did say they "talked a little" after the offer sheet was made.
"I'm going to help him as much as I can," Aho said. "At the end of the day you have to just forget all that talk and keep doing what you do and play hockey. I'm sure he is going to help us a lot as a team. ... We got a great player out of it. That's my take on it."