So after a hockey filled day Saturday, including a trip to the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame and going to a playoff game to see my hometown team, the Tampere Tappara, win their third game in a row in a seven game series, I thought I’d throw in a non-educational related post and school you all in Finnish Hockey instead.
So here we go: Five things you always (or never!) wanted to know about Finnish hockey:
#1. Finnish hockey is AWESOME. And no…I am in no way abusing, misusing or stretching the word awesome here. Okay, it is not the NHL and is actually more towards the middle of the spectrum between college hockey and the NHL, but let me tell you, there is no lack of tough, scrappy, hard-hitting, bite-your-nails action at a Finnish hockey game.
#2. Finnish hockey is brutal. I mean, come on, hockey is brutal (just look at the fabulously accurate graphic to the right). For starters, I couldn’t see any mouth-guards out there on the ice. In a related observation, I didn’t see many teeth. It is brutal for fans, too. Sitting in the third row from the ice, there was nothing in between me and a speeding puck. Which is scary since the fastest slap shot on record was travelling at a blistering speed of 110 miles per hour. In the NHL, the side glass is mandated to be 5 feet high on the sides, in Finland, 2.6 feet. About six inches lower than my fully-toothed smile.
#3. There exists the Golden Helmet. I’m sure NHL fans would scoff at this idea, but it seems to work great in Finland. So the top point producer for each team wears a shiny gold helmet that looks like he beheaded C3PO and left his body stuffed in a locker in the team’s dressing room. I guess this is similar to the pink shirt in cycling, but I would be willing to bet that in the NHL this might be the equivalent of painting a target across the player’s chest. At first I thought it was as gimmicky as the NHL’s horrible, and thankfully short-lived, addition of Foxtrax in the late 1990’s (any hockey fan over 25 will remember the day your hockey game began looking like some ridiculous video game). But I have to say, there was an elevation in the volume of the crowd everytime Ville Nieminen got the puck at Saturday’s game, which added to the excitement.
#4. Finns don’t chant their praises (well, actually they do) BUT they also sing them. A lot. This is probably fueled by the fact that alcohol consumption has to be performed at at alarmingly fast pace in between periods, but man, do they love to sing songs at the game. I also noticed that certain sections of the stands participated in this more than others and the upper corners of the rinks were not unlike the bleacher seats at Yankee stadium in the 1990’s, when they still served alcohol and everyone felt the need to be excessively loud, since the seats were so very far away from the field.
#5. They LOVE this guy: And I mean, as a Finnish hockey fan, who wouldn’t? Jari Kurri was the first true Finnish superstar to play in the NHL (although the Tappara’s own Kalevi Numminen’s son, Teemu Numminen, recorded more games played in the NHL than Kurri …just saying). During Kurri’s career he scored 601 goals, and 1,398 points. Playing opposite Wayne Gretsky probably contributed to his successes, but after Gretsky went to the Kings, Kurri led Edmonton to their 5th Stanley Cup, so… I guess it makes sense that he was EVERYWHERE at the Finnish Hockey hall of fame…
So I leave you with some pictures from my day… but first, Tappara’s glam metal theme song… just further proof of #1 and #2, …enjoy: