Player news: Henri Väänänen heads to Ostrava Steelers

Quarterback Henri Väänänen has signed to play for Ostrava Steelers. He started his American football career in Rauma Sea City Storm and played last two seasons for Helsinki Roosters. Henri is following in the footsteps of another Finnish quarterback Oskar Drockila. Last season Steelers encountered some contract problems with their supposed to be Icelandic quarterback just befor the season start and ended up to replace him with the young Finn. U-19 national team quarterback Drockila helped Steelers to advance to the Czech Bowl, but general manager Adam Synáček hopes the team takes the last step to the Czech championship with a little more experienced quarterback.

– In my eyes Henri is one of the TOP 10 QB with EU passport in Europe. Combination of strength, power, speed and good coaching is rare combination which can be special for us for next season in Czech league. We had balanced team last season, but we struggled with leader at the QB position (no offence to Oskar – he will be very good one day). With Henri I believe that we have complete offence, which can face top opponents in our league. I hope that we bring the championship to Ostrava Steelers with signing Henri.

Luke Wildung, offensive coordinator of Ostrava Steelers, would have wanted Henri Väänänen in his team last season, but Henri’s conscription duties forestalled it then.

– I have been very high on Henri for a few years and I tried to sign him last season for the Steelers, but with his military obligations he was not able to sign with the Steelers. I think that Henri has all of the raw talent, skills, and intangibles to be a top quarterback in Europe. I know some of his teammates from the Roosters and they confirmed what I already knew, that Henri is a hardworking, athletic, and driven player! I have no doubt that Henri will fit perfectly into my offense and help us reach our goal of a Championship!

Ostrava head coach Garreth Griffeth had also his eyes on Henri already in last year.

– We signed Henri for a number of reasons. It was actually Coach Wildung who was initially in contact with Henri last year. We wanted to sign him for the 2017 season, but unfortunately he was unable due to his service in the military. That being the case we contacted Henri immediately following the ending of our 2017 season.

He likes the athletic skills his new quarterback has.

– Henri is a large and very capable athlete who has the ability to beat you with his arm as well as his legs. Aside from Henri’s clear athletic ability; it is also the intangibles Henri possesses which really sold us on him. After speaking with multiple teammates from the Helsinki Roosters as well as our talks over a month or so, it was clear the kind of attitude and character Henri has.

– Henri is a determined athlete who has the natural ability to be a positive leader and raise the level of competition in those around him. His effective communication skills, work ethic, and high football IQ, makes Henri the perfect fit for our team. He is a student of the game who is determined to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Coach Griffeth believes also in Henri’s leadership and is glad to have him in his team.

– We are proud to welcome Henri to the Ostrava Steelers Organization for the 2018 season.

Helsinki Roosters offensive coordinator Mikko Koikkalainen has been working with Henri Väänänen for two seasons.  He knows Henri’s strengths and is satisfied that Henri has got a chance to show them in Europe/ outside Finland.

– I`m so happy for Henri for this opportunity. He can showcase his talents and grow as a player with the responsibility as a starting quarterback. He has an exceptional throwing arm and I`m sure his opponents will notice that too. Good luck, Henri!

Brandon Connette mentoring Henri Väänänen. Picture by Jarmo Vehkomäki.

Here are some quick answers from Henri Väänänen:

How did you end up signing with Ostrava Steelers?

– I was contacted by the Ostrava head coach Garrett Griffeth on Europlayers. Conversations with him went great from the beginning, and I felt really good about the Steelers right away. After I’d made the decision to go play in Europe next season, it was an easy decision to sign with the Steelers.

What made you decide to go abroad?

– I wanted to challenge myself. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to start at quarterback at a high level in Finland, so it’s almost a blessing in disguise you have to, or get to, go to Europe. So the decision was based on wanting to play and wanting the experience of living and playing in another country. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that.

What are your expectations for the coming season and what athletic goals have you given for yourself?

– My expectations are high! I know the Steelers have a good team that’s hungry for a championship. My goal is to do everything I can to help the team reach that goal.

Puolustusvoimien urheilukoululaiset Alexander Wasiljeff ja Henri Väänänen, kuva Jarmo Vehkomäki.

The season in Czech begins in April and ends in July. Henri Väänänen leaves in January and comes back to Finland in August to play the Maple League in Roosters’s Red. Helsinki Roosters wishes him all the success in the Czech championship league.

Show them what you are capable of doing!

Text: Pekka Lylyharju
Photos: Salla Lahti, Jarmo Vehkomäki