Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New blog

Try here instead. We're experimenting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ilves Alumni Premiere Between the Pipes

Yesterday was a first for the Ilves franchise. For the first time of its history, two home-grown goaltending talents were going head-to-head in an NHL game.

Since Manny Fernandez went down with knee problems not too far in the season, Tuukka Rask was recalled three times from the Dunkin Donuts Center (my logical conceptions need to be challenged every day, it seems, A Donut... with a Center!) of Providence via the Boston Garden to the Air Canada Center, in downtown Toronno (find me one Canadian that will say the last T and I'll disqualify him as a Québecois or something) yesterday. No on-ice appearance resulted of the first two call-ups. But after Tim Thomas' first real screw-up performance of Saturday, where he got showered with 52 pucks, coach Julien decided to give the Savonlinnalainen his first NHL start and spare him the bystander charade from going on too long.

To my knowledge, this would have been the first representative from the town to tend an NHL goal since the great Jarmo Myllys' last stint with the new San José franchise back in '92. Great hopes rest on his shoulders because if you believe - and we are indeed starting to believe - all the fuss surrounding Carey Price, then if they are as comparable as Hockey's Future seems to say, Tuukka will be his arch-nemesis for years to come.

Faith and Destiny and Providence willing, and perhaps the Tooth Fairy and a couple screenwriters from All my Children pitching in, Tuukka's first opponent turned out to be the very same team that bothered this proud young Finn on Juhannus night 2006, 2am (must've been in bed, right?), to let him know they were shipping his rights to Massachussetts against the laughing stock of Tampere during the lockout season, Andrew Raycroft (let me direct your attention to his playoff stats for the 2004-05 season here).

It took one more season out of the playoffs, one lost 1st round pick, a second round one and a fourth in '09 too for the Maple Leafs to address the hole they had themselves created at the keeper's position. And in the off-season they made the move to acquire Tampere's own Vesa Toskala. A good bloke from what I gather. I have met the gent once at a pancake gathering at a friend's place and he seemed like a stand up guy. But that was before his allegiance was forcefully switched from the quiet Bay Area to where he became a creature to be loathed. Ok, I have to admit I have had admiration for one Leaf in the past, Eddie "The Eagle" Belfour, and I cannot say I despise Toskala but let's say it's beyond me to vote him an All-Star or to applaud anything he will do while wearing that fallen Leaf on his chest. I will cheer for him though when he backstops Finland in Halifax at the World Championships this year, since I predict his club will be sending quite a few freshly sent on holidays able bodies early in the competition.

(On the subject, Mats Sundin has caused a stir by shunning the city that drafted him first overall and made him a star (before trading him for used up Wendell Clark) and choosing to pass on the opportunity to advertise this year's competition in La Vielle Capitale as well as in Halifax. You can find the article in French here, and keep adding up the number of Ontarians, and neo-Ontarians giving the proverbial middle digit to all things La Belle Province.)

Long story short once again, all to say that Tuukka Rask's Bruins came back from a 2-0 deficit to seal the deal at 4 to 2, with Kobasew scoring in a net deserted by Toskala, being the Ilves alumni that had to swallow his slice of Humble Pie last night. Rask was named the first star of the match and you can read more about it here and see highlights and all. You can also get a snippet of an interview with the youngster here. Congrats for not showing up with a Mika Hakkinen accent, by the way, son!

So like Price impressed against the Penguins in his first NHL outing, Rask lives up early to his status as one of the best and brightest prospects in the League today. And next time Montreal meets up with the oft-bruised Bruins in the Playoffs, it will be a Voodoo effigy of a facial-hair challenged young man from Savonlinna that people will torture and burn all across the Island while signing along the nursery ryhme of my youth that used to, and still says:

"Tu n'es pas Maître à Boston quand Nous y Sommes!"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

HIFK Bandy

Okay, so it's not hockey, but I need to put these somewhere and I think Mika could do with some reassurance that at least one HIFK team doesn't stink like a sewage works. They won 16 (SIXTEEN)-1 on Friday night, a great prelude to an evening's drinking in Kallio.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Regression and digression

As previously covered, SM-liiga's on the first of its weekish long breaks, about a third of the season has gone and the original intention was to give a quick overview of proceedings so far. So let's have a go and see if we can stumble on anything exceptional. KalPa, Ässät and SaiPa are all in all too familiar territory in the nether regions of the table, HIFK are dodging around the lower cut-off line, while TPS have struggled northwards in the last few weeks. Plus ça change, as Saku Koivu (see, educational as well) might not say. In less familiar surroundings are HPK, Jukka Jalonen unsurprisingly proving a hard act to follow even for someone as clued up as Matti Alatalo. Starting the season with half the squad as newcomers can't have been easy for the ex-JYP man, and maybe their last game, a 3-4 victory in Raksila, the sort of home defeat I can just about tolerate, is a sign of better results to come. JYP themselves are squabbling over the mid-table positions with most of the usual suspects plus the nuclear powered foxes from Rauma. Jokerit are currently taking Buggins' turn to be third, which brings us next to Kärpät.

On the results front we've beaten KalPa unconvincingly three times, and suffered rare home defeats to SaiPa and Hannu Aravirta's gang from Lahti, the last one a genuinely good stuffing of the weasel. Pity poor Tappara though, who must be wishing games against us were three seconds shorter. Twice we've played them and twice we've beaten them, each time a decisive goal coming in the last two seconds of the game. On the player front we've suffered the seemingly usual gaggle of defensive injuries, the other side of the coin being that the younger defenders get more ice time and are playing well to boot. Extra cover was provided again by the ever reliable Ivan Majesky. Oskari Korpikari celebrated his 200th league game with a victory over Ässät, and in his 201st got hit in the face by the puck, breaking his jaw in several places. Mikko Lehtonen and Ilkka Mikkola are also sidelined, the former losing his place for the Karjala tournament no thanks to a dodgy back. Jere Karalahti's been out for 2-3 weeks now with a dead leg. Karalahti, ah yes, I knew he'd be at the centre of something that doesn't happen every day.

I wasn't present, but presumably last Tuesday's training session in Raksila was running quite normally. Until two police officers turned up, arrested Karalahti in connection with a drugs investigation and carted him off to Espoo for questioning, that is. Kärpät management are reportedly "gobsmacked" (my translation) that such a thing could have happened, seemingly unfamiliar with the idea that people with a colourful past such as Karalahti might just be carrying some baggage around. Looking on the bright side, it speaks volumes for the wayward one's reputation here that the old bill turned up at a scheduled training session with the expectation of finding him there, and actually succeeding. Coming to think of it, it also speaks volumes of the local plods that they had the wit to look for him at a scheduled training session. Let's face it, their powers of deduction aren't always unquestioned in these parts. The low point must be the car harpoon from the mid-'90s, with no one apparently able to work out beforehand the likely dangers associated with having a sharpened piece of solid metal attached to the front of a speeding car. To be fair though some do use their brains more profitably, like the time I was present during a daring daylight raid on a supermarket in Kaijonharju. The already unsteady robber, laden with a crate (24 bottles) of beer, shuffled his way craftily between the two checkouts, taking care not to interrupt the ongoing deep discussion. He would have made a clean, albeit dishevelled, getaway had he not farted all too loudly as the automatic doors opened for his exit, thereby causing the alarm to be raised. Half an hour later two of Oulu's finest sauntered onto the scene and casually took said felon from slumped against the supermarket wall, together with remains of crate, into custody.

Getting back somehow to Karalahti, today he gets to know his fate. Police must either release him or charge him. Missing three weeks through injury is one thing, but he'll miss a lot more than that if he ends up doing bird. By which utterly contrived means I turn to the one team so far not covered by the round up, Pelicans. C'mon, let's be honest, we may not have been too surprised to see them head the league after half a dozen or so games, but who amongst us would have reckoned on their staying there to this point? Not me, for sure. Will they last or will they fade? The latter, for my money, after the long season takes its usual injury toll. Now, about those bloody shirts of theirs...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Against the world

Today I read Mika Nieminen's column in Helsingin Sanomat. There was some general stuff about the league, but one interesting point was about Matt Nickerson's five game ban because of his current contribution to the Ässät. In there Nieminen said that it was somewhat over exaggerated but it would would have been standard if Nickerson had played in HIFK-team.

That actually is very true. Some pretty strange stuff has happened when HIFK has been part of it. When Shedden coached the HIFK and they had quite a lot of fights S/M-Liiga (yeah /-character is used in purpose) ruled that HIFK has to pay 10000 € because it causes bad influence to league. In the same year
Ässät paid about 1000 € for similar reasons. Anyway I have no idea were those ever paid to anyone. Hopefully not.

At one time there was also a rule that no rulings could be made after the game IF match official hadn't made note about something that had happened. Anyway they changed that and after that they gave Raimo Summanen a fine about his comments about the league. What they didn't do was to penalize Otakar Janecky (he was playing Jokerit) while he tried to kick Lukko's Jarmo Kuusisto. I couldn't find a video but at times I saw it in the news. Janecky was in ground and he tried to kick Kuusisto with the both of his skates. This episode had happened before Summanen's comments and it might have been a good example too.

On the other news HIFK won two games before the break. First there was 2-6 win against the Blues and after that they won Ässät in penalties. I can't really tell is it a good thing or just pure luck. I heard that Blues goalie Bernd Bruckler didn't have his best day so who knows. After the break there's away game against KalPa and if things go as they usually to go you might want to bet your money against HIFK. KalPa has won three games this season and you probably can guess which team was associated with one of them.

Karjala Tournament Preview

From the 8th of November until Sunday, Hartwall Areena will host its flag beer's tournament between the 4 ice hockey powerhouses of Europe.

For those not familiar with the exercise, the Karjala tournament is the second of 4 of the kind called the Euro Hockey Tour, played in the Czech Republic first in August-Spetember under the name Česká Pojišťovna Cup (if it's misspelled, blame the copy/pasting, not me), then in Finland, followed by the Channel One Cup in Russia in December and the Swedish LG Hockey Games around February. The whole ordeal is ended by a quick medal round in May to crown the winner.

The squads gather the elite of each countries playing in Europe. So the level is interesting, although the stint is brief and the rosters might change from a tournament to another, which results in uneven play quite often. For these reasons, it is very hard also to pick a favourite. Some team might bolster some famous names, Malkin was playing a couple years ago, Niinimaa this year! but the chemistry is not guaranteed to be clicking with the linemates at all.

Like expected in a previous post, Peter Forsberg will be a no show. He had to end his first skating session with the team because of his ever-lasting foot injury, explained here in details by Bob McKenzie. In short, if don't want to read the article, Foppa got a club foot and his career is over. Spread the word! If you want to read, there might be a little more layers to it.

TV2 will be broadcasting all the Leijonat games so you can watch in the comfort of your home if you have paid your TV tax, of course!

Not a lot of known names playing for the Czech Republic. Zbynek Irgl though, during the last World Championship, struck me as a man who is one pronounceable name away from the NHL. He showed some great flashes and was a threat most times I have seen him on the ice. Worth a closer look if he shows skills like here, Ojojoj, indeed!

Under the supervision of diminutive Montreal alumni and hero of my youth, Mats Näslund, the Forsberg-less Swedes don't look so stellar either. Former Espoo winger Ekman, who had nice production when he was carried by Thornton and Cheechoo in San José, surfaces here out of Khimik. Daniel Tjärnqvist who does not seem to find a home this season is showing up too. HV71's starter Stefan Patrick Liv, a Polish orphan (insane what you find on Wikipedia), will mind the net. Along with Captain Kenny Jönsson, the last two will be the only representatives from the Gold Medal Winning team in Torino.

Slava Bykov, a former Nordiques pick, is the coach for Russia. Between the pipes, they will have the Washington Capitals' second first round pick of 2006, announced back then by future teammate Alex Ovechkin (fun video of the Backstrom pick there). Since being chosen to succeed the long reigning German Torhüter, Olaf Kolzig in Capital City, Varlamov has gone through a little makeover. From the name he was bearing on draft day, he has, coming into training camp this year been rebaptized Simeon, a good Jewish name. The former Anglicized version of his name, Semen, had connotations one does not always want to associate with, apart when it brings you headlines like this one: Semen makes women happy. He plays with Irgl in Yaroslav at the moment, perhaps the Czech could learn a thing or two from Simeon's publicity stunt and go under the moniker of Zach Eagle or something flashy of the sort, that could land him a spot in Nashville!

Suomi has got a good deal of familiar names on the cast and might be icing the most potent team on paper. Markkanen and Niemi or as solid as they come in net. Väänänen, Niinimaa, Immonen, AJ Niemi, Pirnes, Santala, Koivisto, Hahl, Laaksonen, Rita, Pesonen, you got to admire that Finnish trait of not backing up when the Nation is calling.

Some high flying to be expected from Shedden's troop and we are looking forward to it! Especially my colleague Egan who will be out of the town along with 12 Russian exchange students, looking for a pub broadcasting Suomi - Venäjä...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

On Koivu's Francais

A stir has been caused once more in La Belle Province of Québec about the fact that Montreal Captain Saku Koivu, an immigrant since 1995, has not yet mastered La Langue de Molière. It has reached the shores of this nation's fine newspapers, so I guess we have to address the subject.

The issue was raised in a governmental public consultation, the Bouchard-Taylor commission, about what is called Reasonable accommodations. It deals with the integration of immigrants to the Quebec Society. Immigration being under provincial jurisdiction in Canada, it is no surprise it will cause a commotion in the only official French-speaking province. If you need more explanation, think about it, We are French, we can't live without commotion. (Funny enough commotion is also the French word for concussion, not that we are so fond of those mind you, just ask Patrice Bergeron, but we are visor wearing pussies after all.)

Bringing forth his outrage to the commission was lawyer Guy Bertrand. A professional shit-stirrer, at the forefront of many far-fetched controversies, once a separatist, once a federalist, always a disgrace to his Province and his name (his brother Rosaire has been for many years my native region's deputy, representing it with great efficiency). This is only the latest desperate attention for headlines that he woke up with some morning when not waking up at all might have been a better option. Just to show, last time I remember him being in the news, it was to represent Leon Mugesera, a Rwandan war criminal known for speeches about "dump[ing Tutsi's] bodies into the rivers of Rwanda."

The argument brought to the table was "the right of Quebecers to be served in French". Good God almighty (or Allah or Buddah or Travolta or The Fonz, don't want to offend any religious groups here) that stuff ain't real, like Bob said (the other Bob, not Gainey and certainly not Marley). The guy is paid, not to offer a service, he is paid to do a job, a manual job, which requires little oral skills other than "Heads up, guys!", "Would you fuckin' pass it for once, Kovy!" or "You want to? Ok! Square off? Ok, Good Luck Man!", ok that last one is for larger men than Koivu, but you get the point. He does his manual job very well and, equal opportunity, equal salary, should a French speaking person be better at the position, it is hard to figure out.

Perhaps in 1993, Montreal should have opted for the next French Canadian available in the draft, namely Eric Lecompte picked by Chicago 3 ranks later with his grand total of 0 games played in the NHL until now. (Let's give him time still he's more than a point per game in Innsbruck this year and he used to kick serious ass in Switzerland's Nationalliga B, a legend in Langenthal, wherever the fuck that may be!) At the same salary, we can arguably find more impressive talent who speaks francais, but do they want to play in Montreal? The debate rages on and I am not getting into that now.

Let's raise a parallel, though.

Here we have a man who has immigrated to a French-speaking country, but has opted to live in its English speaking part. L'Île-des-Soeurs (when David Cronenberg does not infest it with horny zombies from outer space) is as close to a gated community as you will find in Québec, fitting for publicity-shy millionaires but not necessarily the best to mingle in the backstreet with the Boréale drinking frogs (Yes, I am allowed to use that word, having juicy tights yearning for garlic butter myself).

For my part, I couldn't find the French speaking part of Tampere when I moved here, but perhaps I could have found more talkative neighbors there. I have been in Finland for more than 3 years, but never had to take road trips to the rest of the non-Finnish speaking Europe every other week and don't get to flee when I miss the playoffs to come back for training camp, so all in all, I might have spent more time in Finland than Koivu really has spent in Québec. I probably speak worse Finnish than Saku speaks French, but he has the terrific advantage of being debated about on TV everyday and radio 24/7, whereas I am not name checked on Salatut Elämät yet.

In my job description, it is said that I am expected to speak French-Canadian as my mother tongue (don't ask what I'm doing but just know that I am not stealing anyone's job at least!). My company's official language is English, for internationalization purposes, our competitors, clients and employees are from different origins and we have a point in common, we speak the language that is commonly used in the trade so that everyone understand each other. Parallel stands. In Koivu's job description though (as well as in Mihail Grabovski's who does not even speak English), language is not mentioned, . Winning face offs, killing penalties, blocking shots and deflecting shots from the point, appearing on posters and tv spots, wearing a suit and tie on game day, yes, and a couple more things you can require to warrant a 4.75 mil a year (be it only American dough), but linguistic specifications aren't part of the deal.

At work, when I turn left, I see a Russian colleague and a French Canadian one, when I turn right I see a wall. If I turn around, behind, I see an American, a Briton and an Italian. Their names are not Kovalev, Bégin, Komisarek, Dafoe and ... Italian, hard to come up with one, Muzzati, ex-Hartford Whaler, is that too far fatched? but we are all part of the same team and communicate in English. No, I do not play right wing, but the situation is similar. My immediate boss, my Carbonneau if you allow the comparison, is a Finn, but he speaks to me in Shakespeare's lingo. And my higher hierarchical overlord is some Swedish holding company if I understood that correctly (Gilletsson from Kålårädostad as far as I care) and he does not give two shits about me speaking the local dialect or not, or he hasn't shared his feelings on the issue with me just yet.

Of course Jean Béliveau wasn't sitting in my chair before me but you get the point. I live well, albeit on a slightly reduced salary compared to Monsieur Bouleau's, in a country where I do not speak the language and, at 32 years old, find very difficult to assimilate. I want more, at my age, out of conversations than the basic
-Terve, minä olen Yves, minä olen Quebecilainen.
-Ooooh Kanadalainen!
-Ei, Quebecilai... ah pis laisse faire.

I have, in the past few years, mainly concentrated my cognitive efforts into learning how to do my job properly (which does not involve Justin Williams' stick blade getting under my retina in any way, but has a couple twists to make it interesting or at least challenging) and doing my best in the remaining time to raise my two children in French, a 3 years and a 1 year old, a girl and a boy (the parallel becomes eerie).

The Finnish (Suomi) language is of a level of difficulty renowned to be of the hardest but, if learned in a vacuum, is much easier than French. Problem is that finding a Finn to talk to is about as hard as getting a French to shut up. But silent letters do not exist in Finnish and exceptions have mostly been purged. The grammatical system however has not much to do with any other languages except Hungarian (Magyar) and Estonian (Eesti, hahah, Québecois inside joke here), which is why I say in a vacuum, because most Occidental speakers will look for reference in their own language and/or in English and they will find not much, mis à part a couple borrowed words here and there that have been cruelly butchered to fit strict Finn spelling (kahvi = coffee!). On the other hand, evidence of Napoleonian era colonialism and other historical phenomenons that have spread the seed of la langue francaise can be found in most languages. The only word that has evaded Finnish and spread to the far reaches of Turkey and Korea is Sauna, and let's not forget it. But I digress.

All I want to say is that, for my part, I might be able to speak Finnish one day and I do half count on my kids to teach me, like Koivu was saying, but it requires time, which I don't always have, and effort, does the "I'm not perfect" argument work here? Simple answer is I am in the country that offers the best situation for my family for the time being and am grateful for the opportunities it offered me, and with all the good will in the World (and I do take classes once a week which means far from often enough), putting the extra effort in learning a language I will probably never master enough to hold a decent conversation or get my point across without using 4th grade vocabulary does seem like a vain effort somehow. But even if, or let's say when I do learn, it will be a hell of a long time before you see me answering the questions of the Finnish equivalent of Michel Villeneuve on TV, unless he accepts a punch in the neck as a Finnish enough answer.

The PR blunder from this season's home opener cannot be blamed on Koivu. Yes, he could have seen it coming, he is a smart fella, but still, someone should have thought about it in higher places. It is not that hard, just write in Finnish (which is phonetics without the funky stuff and a few dots more): "Lö nymero kätrövinkätr, Gijoom Läätaandress" and so forth...
Easy! Facile! Helppoa!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Forsberg in Helsinki

The news is out on There is a favourite for the upcoming Karjala cup. Foppa will lace his skate over his reconstructed ankle and come over the bay to line up with the Tre Kronor.

Tickets can be bought here if you are interested and have enough booing air stocked up in your lungs.

Forsberg is once again in a reflexion mode whether or not he will sign with the Wings, or the Ducks or the Avs or wherever. It probably is a legitimate process, his injury is/was serious, no doubt, but it makes one wonder. The man has a history of coming back when it counts. Or said differently, has a history of avoiding to be alongside his teammates for the long-haul work, showing up only when its time to shine and collect the glories.

Back in 2001, he opted to sit the year. The Avalanche having a solid enough squad to cruise to the playoffs with 41 year-old Ray Bourque lacing 'em up for 80 games, he opted to stay sidelined in Sweden, taking it easy and "healing" correctly while the rest of the boys did the dirty work. He showed up for the playoffs, all well and rested, Patrick Roy led them once again to Glory and he gets an extra ring on his fingers. Not too bad for a 20 games effort.

For last year's Olympics, he was in a questionable condition during all the qualification round. Leaving his team to be flogged 4-0 by Ovechkin and the Russians, before coming back all glorious in the medal round. Other teams worked their asses off throughout all the tournament. One team I won't name humiliated Canada and lost a good amount of teeth on the way to a perfect sheet before showing up undefeated but rightly so tired in the Finals.

So now, Peter is sitting out again this NHL season. Scanning which team has a shot at the cup while his Crocs sandals operation (who the fuck buys those, anyway?) compensates for his regular NHL salary. But at least he will grace Finnish ice for a quick round. A word to the Shedden Boys (or is it the Jalonen Boys already?) : "Make it a though one!"

Tappara beat Ilves yesterday to catch up with them in the rankings. Anssi Salmela scored the weekest goal given by a keeper I have ever seen in Pro Hockey, Tommy Salo included. Here you can see Tero Leinonen's failure in all its splendor. I also really liked the little dangle by Saviano that led to good old Janne Ojanen saying "Hey kid, cut the crap" and bury it the old fashioned way past Leinonen.

So here we stand with both Tampere teams with their heads above water. Good times ahead!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HIFK Q&A today

Today is HIFK Q&A-session with official fan club and almost all keymen in HIFK. The meeting is only for the members (actually 25 of them) and probably that newsman who will take a cute photograph with the smiling club. Hopefully there will be real questions with real answers and not the general chitchat. Some questions (mostly in finnish) are in the Jatkoaika's thread but like someone there wrote are there anyone who has the guts to really question Matikainen and his actions with the club?

Before Matikainen took charge there have been only one bronze and if I remember correctly about 12 coaches. Only Shedden has been succesful but now he's at Ilmala with Harkimo and Kummola. Hannu Aravirta might have had the abilities to get HIFK back to top but he was sacked in the playoffs.

Next home game against SaiPa is a must-win. Before that HIFK only won Tappara and got one point from TPS. Previous game against Jokerit wasn't that bad so maybe there's hope.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pentti Ulos!

Can't find a better picture than this, unfortunately, but it seems the natives are getting restless down at Helsingin Jäähalli. Mika will be better able to explain this, but it seems like Pentti Mattikainen's days are numbered.


High octane fratricide matchup yesterday at Hakametsä. I sadly didn't get to attend but can still comment, that's what we're here for!

You get the highlights of the game here. Aamulehti apparently has got a contest out to find the least interesting person to lead off their highlights segment. They certainly have found a good contender for the title, Yrjö Kares might have been dead a while. I would suggest someone check his pulse.

The festivities started off with Marko Anttila getting a 5 + 20 min kneeing penalty. Hard time in the slammer. It is hard to find the footage of this but we, at HIF, have gotten exclusive coverage of the incident that you can find here. Tough call by the referee, because if we believe the tape, Anttila has a hard time bending his own knees in the first place (and Peltola badly needs a shave).

The play that led to Lehterä's goal was a superb effort from Jonas Enlund. with all the kindness in the world, he took time to put down Lehtivuori, tuck him in, sing him a lullaby, kiss him on the forehead, lie down next to him to pet his head a little and relay the puck to his linemate for the kill. Great play!

But Tappara had to tank it. They blew a 4-2 lead entirely in the 3rd to lose the 1 point they could have been salvaging with 5 seconds to go. Two penalties for dumping the puck over the glass handed in the last two minutes resulted in a two man advantage for Ilves. A real game killer and a real sign of panic from the defending team. One of the penalties was handed out to André Benoit, so all Tappara fans can now sign along: Blame Canada!

I have got to point out though that my fellow country man is now the most used player on the Tappara squad with 22:05 minutes of ice time a game on average and the best +/- stats on the team at 6. He stands nicely as the 5th highest scoring defenseman in the SM-Liiga, so if he drops the ball once in a while he can maybe be forgiven.

The rankings are still very tight in the middle, but with this win, Ilves has elevated its head above the Tropic of Cancer, passing Tappara for 5th. Hopefully both Tampere teams can remain in that pack, so that we get interesting post season battles this year. This remains to be seen!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oh and peace broke out in the world

Helsingin Sanomat brings news (in Finnish) of cats and dogs living together - or, as they put it, of Jokerit supporters and the Hämeenlinna hockey arena settling their row.

It got started during last season's playoffs when a group of Jokerit supporters, displeased with the seating arrangements, took out their displeasure on the seats. The Rinkelinmäki folks responded by banning said fans and a few extra besides from the arena until they cough up 5'000 euros.

Now JF-Club, a Jokerit fan club, has agreed to pay for a portion of the damages, although the figure is well short of the demanded sum. Rinkelinmäki, for its part, will once again be open even to Jokerit supporters.

And they didn't even need Martti Ahtisaari to mediate.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ilves 3 JYP 1

JYP really aren't doing very well at the moment. They don't seem able t hit a rhythmn, and after conceding early goals they were always chasing their tails. Once again Marko Antilla had a decent game and he was unlucky not to score, Dwight Helminen got into a few tussles, Sinuhe Wallinheimo bawled out Jarkko Immonen for an unnecessary penalty in the first period and the Ilves cheerleaders have a routine for Finland's national anthem.

The Pharoah is obviously JYP's leader. It's funny to see a goaltender shouting louder than the rest of them team (and most of the crowd) but that's what Wallinheimo does. He used to be suspected of dislodging the goalposts a little too often, but he's now made his peace with the referees and is a very good keeper. I certainly wouldn't want to piss him off.

Lahti Rules!?

The Lahti Pelicans are garnering a lot of attention these days with their stellar season start. They came out of the gate swinging high this year and finally, The Chicago of Finland team stopped shadowing the results of their sister city's Blackhawks and put up the results the City desperately needs.

It is still early in the season, the wind could start blowing in any other direction any game now, but they are worth mentioning at this stage, in this blog, as well as on it seems. The NHL has vowed to increase its presence in Europe and they are doing so by showcasing a feature called Across the Pond on their website's main page. You don't learn much more there than you would by surfing the site or deciphering with very low Finnish comprehension but hockey instincts on and odds are M. Meltzer wrote that column from the comfort of his West Chester, PA, home, far away from Vesijärvi (what an original name!). Then again, you don't learn much more on this blog than you would googling for barnyard pornography, so M. Meltzer, hats off to you, nice to see that someone is paying attention, shedding some light on this country as the sun is withdrawing on us, a little further day by day. One question though, why is your one website coattail riding on Mikael Renberg's fame?

One NHL/SM-Liiga related mystery that remains unsolved to me - and most others who have nothing better to do - is the brief stint of Sean Avery in Lahti. During the lockout, he lined up with the Pelicans for 2 games, 3 goals scored, these are the recorded facts. It would make you believe the man was here for a walk in the park and would have stayed around to boost his rather low stocks (at the moment) anchoring the low expectations Pelicans attack and adding a few scraps with the SM-Liiga's best and brightest, namely Shelley and Westcott with Jyp and that Ogre, Pauli Levokari then with Ässät (here is some rare footage of Levokari playing with his son).

But after these two outings, the man disappeared, left without a trace. Breach of contract, never to be seen again. He resurfaced a while later in the USHL but in the meantime, the portrait is shady. Uninformed sources rumour that he has mingled with the wrong crowd, Laotians posing as Thaï masseuses, Kazakh mobsters or long-legged Karelians from the wrong side of the border, who carry lipstick and shaving cream in their hand purse.

Chances are he simply couldn't bear the prospect of a winter in Lahti. I spent, sorry sacrified, 2 of my winters to this god forsaken town and if I had had his options, believe me, I would have fled like Frank Morris. But I would like to have some light shone on this episode. If anyone has more info, please enlighten us (as well as our 3 readers). Please!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hullut Päivät!

Finns are great bargain hunters. Flea markets, police auctions, pick your own strawberries - this country is full of opportunities to reduce the cost of living. The big department stores get in on the act, when they sell a huge number of discounted lines over 3 or 4 days and make a large proportion of their annual profits.

It's Stockmann's Hullut Päivät next week. They will sell huge amounts of everything, from chocolate and marshmallows to holidays in Thailand. Every day from Wednesday to Saturday they will release different products to the expectant crowds, who will queue stupidly early to get their hands on the stuff and fight with other crazed consumers.

On Wednesday of next week, they will be selling season tickets for 7 SM Liiga clubs at €235. I'm not sure how great the seats are, and you've missed a few games, but that's a bit of a bargain. The clubs are TPS, Ilves, Tappara, Kärpät, Blues, HIFK and Jokerit.