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.

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