When Sasha Barkov and Anton Lundell are on the ice together for the Florida Panthers, they only speak in their native Finnish to one another.
“We are pretty sorry for our right winger,” Barkov told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan.
That happens to be Sam Reinhart, who hails from North Vancouver and one who does not understand much Finnish.
Despite the language barrier, Reinhart says it is not an issue.
Hockey is its own language and the 27-year-old winger has played with Barkov and Lundell long enough to understand their tendencies and where to be on the ice.
“They are probably the guys who I have played with the most in my two years here, so we’re all comfortable with each other,” Reinhart said.
”i think the only adjustment is Lundell moving to the wing and I think he has done a great job of that. He is obviously a quick learner, he thinks the game well. We are just reading and reacting off of each other.”
For a worldwide sport like hockey, situations like this are not uncommon.
The Panthers alone have six different countries represented on their 23-man roster and many of them did not grow up speaking English.
A few of them only started learning the language recently — and Reinhart says he has a lot of respect for others learning a second (or in Barkov’s instance, a third) language and being forced into using it on a daily basis.
Reinhart has learned to work around any sort of language barrier during his nine seasons in the NHL — and it is not like Barkov nor Lundell completely leave him out of their conversations.
“It’s not out of the ordinary,” Reinhart said. “They know when it is appropriate to speak English like everyone in our locker room who has it as their second language. They are smart enough to know when it’s the right time and they are both exceptional.”
Lundell and Barkov have both become two of the best English speakers in the Florida locker room but Reinhart understands why they choose to speak their first language — especially in the heat of a game.
It still takes time for them to translate Finnish words into English when choosing what they want to say, just as anyone speaking a second language does.
”I can only imagine speaking a second language, but the first has got to be easier,” Reinhart said.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT BUFFALO SABRES
- When: Monday, 1 p.m.
- Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4, Sabres 3 (Oct. 15)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Buffalo leads 52-47-5, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday at Toronto, 7 p.m.