Toskala high on Hogtown

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

As part of a San Jose Sharks television feature, Vesa Toskala and his buddy, Ville Nieminen, were interviewed while sitting in a steamy sauna sizzling up some dinner sausages.

Now that's entertainment!

Of course, as difficult as it might seem, the days of frying Finnish franks in California are behind Toskala, just another sweet-smelling memory of his four-plus seasons as a member of the Sharks.

And that's fine with him.

Coming to Toronto, he hopes, will bring with it the opportunity to snap up the starting goaltenders' position he so very much covets.

Just 72 hours after coming to the Maple Leafs with forward Mark Bell in a blockbustre deal that saw three draft picks head west, Toskala said yesterday he would like to plant hockey roots in Toronto for a long time.

"Right now that's the way I feel, so why not?"Toskala said from his native Tampere,Finland.

In order for that to happen, the Leafs must come to an agreement on a contract extension with Don Baizley, Toskala's North American-based representative. The two sides already have held discussions, although nothing can be official prior to Sunday.

Toskala has one year remaining on a deal that will pay him $1.375 million US.

"I would love to stay longer," he said.

"Negotiations could get serious when July 1 comes around and that would be great."

Toskala admits having been in Toronto just twice in his life -- once with the Sharks, the other in 2004 while representing Finland at the World Cup of Hockey.

That hasn't stopped him from doing research on the so-called Centre of the Hockey Universe.

Since being acquired from the Sharks four days ago, he has already been scanning the internet checking out potential residences in Toronto.

He also picked the brain of Jyrke Lumme, a former Maple Leaf.

"I talked to Jyrke today," Toskala, 30, said.

"He told me the Leafs are a first-class organization who treat their players well. He also told me the areas in the city where the players live, things like that."

One place Toskala vows to call his new home is the goal crease at the Air Canada Centre.

"I always think I can be a No. 1 goalie for a team and be one of the best goalies in the league," he said.

Standing in his way is incumbent Andrew Raycroft, who, in an interview last Friday, make it clear that he still considers himself the starter in Toronto.

Two men who each feel have the right stuff to carry the workload.

Is this a recipe for potential ugliness when training camp rolls around in September?

Is this another A-Rod versus Derek Jeter saga?

Will there be constant headlines about how the two goalies just don't get along?

"No, no. I'm not the type of guy who does dirty work (behind the scenes)," Toskala said. "In San Jose, (Evgeni Nabokov) and I would joke around all the time even though we were competing for playing time. It worked amazingly well.

"I look forward to seeing Andrew again."

During the lockout of 2004-05, both men spent stints playing in Tampere of the Finnish Elite League -- Raycroft with Tappara, Toskala with Ilves Tampere.

They actually played a game against each other and, according to Toskala, met briefly afterward.

"The way I look at it, the only thing I can control is what I do on the ice," he said of the battle for playing time. "That's the only thing that matters."

With a career NHL record of 65-28-10, his on-ice work should net him a nice raise. One agent recently predicted the going rate for a Toskala-type goalie likely would be about $10 million over three years.

In any event, with Baizley looking after his interests, those numbers will work themselves out.

CRUISING THE STREETS

It's off the ice where Toskala might need a bit of guidance when he arrives in Toronto.

Toskala, you see, likes spending spare time during the off-season cruising the streets of Tampere on his scooter, a mode of transporation "I've had for seven years."

Here is some advice for the incoming Maple Leaf.

First, management likely won't be thrilled if you are spotted riding a moped at Yonge and Bloor during rush hour. An SUV might be much safer.

Secondly, you might get some strange looks from your new teammates if you invite them to a sausage barbeque at a local sauna.

Just trying to help.


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