Friday, September 21, 2007
Introduction to SM Liiga, Part 2
So we continue with the other half of Tampere. Tappara grew out of Tammerfors Bollklubb, assuming their current name in 1955. As you can see, they like their viking imagery. They've been more successful than Ilves in recent years, their 12th and most recent title coming in 2003.
Their theme song is 'Life is life' by Opus, and they play in a very ugly kit. Two things that don't immediately endear them to me, but I'm a very superficial person. They do have a French Canadian, Mr Andre Benoit who scored a cracking first goal of the season as Yves pointed out before. Benoit is from New Brunswick, I think, but in any case is not a Quebecker. I include this information because until I discovered it I was unaware that any French Canadians existed outside of Quebec (or, y'know, significant numbers of them. Obviously some of them exist outside Quebec, they don't just vapourise at the border. Two of them have even survived in Pirkanmaa before Benoit's arrival, so they are a multi-habitat breed).
Tappara are the Chelsea of Finland. At least partly owned by Poju Zabludowicz, a London-based billionaire, they have been pretty successful recently and lots of other people don't like them that much.
Porin Ässät are not called 'asses', their name actually translates as 'Aces'. They are represented here by Jussi, who survived the perils of an upbringing in his home city. Dangerous moments included the time someone got shot in the eye outside a Grilli kioski, and this summer's brutal murder in which a young man got bored with the two women he'd invited back to his apartment and shot them both dead with a crossbow. It's a hard place, run by cruel people, who in 2006 ruined the only nice thing that ever happens in Pori by inviting Sting along to the Pori Jazz festival. Evil has triumphed there, and a west coast tour is not complete without a picture outside the famous kiosk and one from Rauma's nuclear power station.
In hockey terms, they were good a couple of years ago but not so hot last season. Pori's a small place and the council support them as much as possible - having lost the Pori Jazz football team they wouldn't want to be without an SM Liiga presence.
Moving down the coast to that nuclear power station, we have Lukko. The city of Rauma has a UNESCO world heritage site (its old wooden town centre) and a nuclear waste dump. The people of Rauma have been compensated for this via their local council, who plough the money into Lukko to make up for their sixth digits.
Lukko's kit is a garish bright yellow, which only adds to the plutonium tinge around the club. To be fair, they did win a title in 1963, which is almost certainly before there was a nuclear plant there. Their Canadians include Shane Toporowski who once played for Toronto, and Doug O'Brien who played in Quebec Major Junior League before he came to Finland. All three of their goaltenders and a surprising number of their players come from Rauma, which surely has nothing to do with the danger of nuclear contamination inherent in living in this part of the Western Finland Archipelago.
Their home 'facility' is Äijänsuo, which holds 5,400.
Next up, HPK. I am playing fast and loose with the 'southwards' direction, but I think it's best to leave the Helsinki and Turku clubs will last, because they are the most southerly clubs. They also play in the most Swedish dominated areas, which in Finland is a good indication of power and influence.
HIF has one HPK fan, Ari. He has provided a guide to their key players, and so I shall lazily copy and paste it directly:
G Andy Chiodo - Acquired last season. Considered one of the best
goalies in the league and needs to play like that for the club to
succeed. A bit injury-prone, at least in the past.
D Harri Tikkanen - Came from SaiPa. Slated to become the team's number
one offensive defenseman. Small, especially for a defenseman.
F Kai Nurminen - Came from TPS. An experienced goal-scoring winger.
First played for the club in the mid-'90s. Is he over the hill?
Another key is how the centers as a group succeed. The position is
widely believed to be a weakness, but Emil Lundberg and/or Iivo
Hokkanen could conceivably exceed expectations.
Kerho represented Finland in the European competitions last year, and did quite well until they got hammered by the Russians. They are widely regarded as another well run club, with a tight but atmospheric rink that still has a good bar and opportunities for fleecing the corporate idiots. Their 'Sika Katsomo' or 'Pig stand' is regarded as providing some of the best heckling in Finland, and it is indeed brilliant to have a standing area so close to the ice. At hakametsä those seats are usually empty because the aforementioned corporate idiots are too busy to watch the game.
Interestingly (for me at least) they have their roots as a bandy club, and switched to the smaller game after the war. Their pesäpallo team were the Finnish champions in 1936, when the long trips to Sotkamo must have been a lot of fun.
Pelicans, the pride of Lahti. I have nothing to add to this logo. Thankfully Yves does, having spent some time in that fine city:
The unfortunate logo of this unfortunate club is only one more unfortunate aspect of the miserable city of Lahti. The Chicago of
Finland, as they say referring to the town's organized crime links, has the highest suicide rate South of the Arctic Circle and that should say a lot in the country with a traditionally high suicide rate.
The Cyan-coloured squad has done nothing in recent years to bolster the morale of the endangered souls that periodically half-fill Isku Areena.
Key players include Marko Jantunen, who, if we believe the Pelicans Web Site Home Page, is made out of plastic (link here: http://www.pelicans.fi/), along with Matias Loppi, they both led the team in scoring last year and are returnees for this season. To be fair, I have to say that the Pelicans seem to be building on something the last few seasons, making the playoffs last year for the first time since their 2002's early exit. But under the captaincy of 36 year old Erik Kakko, they have had a long crossing of the desert. Kakko could be the least accurate point man I have ever seen. His goals/shots average makes you wonder if it wouldn't be time somebody would bring him the news about his limited talent, but silence is golden in this country, isn't it?
Satosaari minds the net and boasted an impressive 92.3% save average last year. Superhuman save percentage has been a necessity from Pelicans' netminders for years now. During the NHL lockout, I have seenPasi Nurminen get over 60 pucks coming his way during one 60 minute. He
gave up 5 goals (who wouldn't?) and still got the first star. Didn't seem so glamourous to him though.
The team is part owned now by Pasi Nurminen, a former solid starter in the net for the Atlanta Thrashers, that was put to early retirement by a knee injury at age 29. You would suspect him to be a bitter man, with a fucked up knee, an addiction to pain-killers, an obnoxious wife and a
hometown that at best strives to be a far suburb of Hell. He now coaches the goaltenders and this bitterness might be the fuel behind his team's surge, but who knows...