Friday, August 31, 2007

QuebeCanada Checking In

Howdy Folks,

As announced by the Master of this Domain, I'll be contributing to this column as often as I can, hopefully it will help to spark my hockey fix closer to home. I have been living in Finland for a few years now (first time here in 2002, permanent resident since 2004, Tamperelainen for now a year and a half, to be a precise bore) and, I have to say, my needs of hockey news (which are at crystal meth addict level comes training camp) have mainly been filled by the good people at, and other ouèbe sites covering the Big League. But the aim that Egan set for this column is to cover local rinks action and cover them we shall.

Of course I will stray, of course I will digress, of course there is moments where you will find that 2 third of my post will be dedicated to Carey Price, hillbilly songs of the 40s or the reasons why you cannot find Kozel Dark anywhere in a mile radius around the Pancho Villa restaurant on Satakunankatu, but that's the name of the game, I guess.

To refute an outright lie proffered by Señor Richardson, I am unfortunately not FROM Montréal. I have lived there for a while and can support the argument of it being the best city to live in the world (I might be wrong, but the argument is worth fighting for). I am rather from a smaller city 100 km from Quebec City in the fine Province de Québec. This being said, I have never been a Nordiques fan (by the way, if the North Stars moved South and became the Stars, why by moving South to Colorado, the Nordiques didn't become the D...), my father sprung out of the Montreal borough of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to come and live in our small town. He was raised to bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge and passed on the torch/tradition/affliction, so my allegiance will always be with the Montreal Canadiens and with our Turkulainen Captain, for better or for now going on 15 years of worse. So you will hear about Les Glorieux a fair bit, sorry about that.

But we would like to concentrate on the local boys for the matter at hand. And we will. The Almighty Language Barrier of Finland (which I believe you can see from space) has kept me from paying very close attention to my new home's teams (ain't that a beauty to be able to say that in plural). I have been to 2 games only at Hakametsä during the past season, but both provided a decent level of entertainment that will draw me back on a more regular basis this season.

I will pay a closer look at the lineups of both teams - and the league's in general - before the puck drops on a new SM-Liiga season, before long anyway and will post back, when the knowledge has sunk in. But from what I know, Ilves losing Rask, Duda and Kudroc, it's gotta hurt (and keeping Anttila, might I add). Meanwhile Tappara gets André Benoit! Might not be of any stellar proportions, but that brings the count of French-Canadians in the the fair city of Tampere to a near record of 4! André (see, we are already on first names basis!) played last year for the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens' farm team, and was a bit less than a year ago at training camp with Montreal, he has come a long way since and I am looking forward to see what he can bring to this hockey club.

I believe you should be neutral to be a journalist. I believe also that following sports without taking sides sucks the fun out of the whole exercise. I am not paid to do this, therefore, I will not pretend to be a journalist, and second therefore (or should it be furthermore?), do not hold it against me if I start taking sides after a while, it's ingrained in the reflexes, human nature and that sort of bull-, you know.

Cheers! and Glad to be On Board!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hockey in Finland

The air is getting breezier, the days are getting shorter, Sheffield Wednesday are losing football games and the lakes are a bit cool to swim in right now. It's autumn, and I think it's about time I put some effort into learning about ice hockey.

Hockey was first brought to my attention when a group of Canadians known as 'Sheffield Steelers' began playing in the mid-90s. They occupied the Sheffield Arena, where hoards of fans would eat nachos and chant along to the music blasted through the speakers. It all felt a bit artificial to me, and I kind of resented that so many people were having fun watching Steelers win titles and cups while the mighty Wednesday were beginning their long decline. I went to a game once, and I nearly burst out laughing when 20-odd North Americans lined up before the game, hands on chests, respectfully standing to attention during 'God Save the Queen'. As a republican and an Atheist, I don't like the song, but to see foreigners singing it...well it was absurd, as much of British hockey is.

In Finland it's much more serious. These people beat the Russians, the Swedes and the Canucks on a fairly regular basis, and so you have to look at why. Yes, the answer is pretty simple: there are a million lakes here and they all freeze in winter. But still, when I arrived i wanted to get into the sport.

that didn't quite happen, as my adopted team were completely rubbish last year. A 6-0 defeat to Ilves was the last JyP game I saw, and I spent much of it asking the bemused barmaid in hemmingways why she didn't have fisu. Yes, there is a bar at Häkämetsa so it's as good a way to spend the winter as any. Better than waiting to read about wednesday's latest humiliation, anyway.

I aim to go to more of the smaller stadia, like HPK's home rink, and hopefully my first JyP home game. I intend to savour the atmosphere and culture, as I cannot really tell you how many assist points the left centre quarterback got for Assat in 1999. I know next to nothing about the sport, which is why I've asked some people who do to help me out.

Yves is from Montreal and has lived in Tampere long enough to know his Ilves from his Tappara. he follows the Canadiens from afar and both Tampere teams from not so far. i hope he'll teach me something this year.

Aapo is about to emigrate, but he may post something if JyP do well and he has to follow the games from London. He writes very well about that kind of thing.

Jussi is an Aces fan, and some friends of his once made money by selling pictures of a Finnish NHLer to a tabloid. If we can get some scoops like that I'll be a happy man.