Egan's roped me into this on the promise of fame and fortune and possibly a couple of beers (something we've been promising each other for more than 6 months now, but we've never quite managed to be in the same pub at the same time), and in return I've promised to write as irregularly as possible.
Ice hockey didn't come easily to me. In my younger -- and let's be honest, not so younger -- days, I played loads of sports to a distinctly average standard, went regularly to speedway meetings, went irregularly to various other sporting events, but ice hockey never figured at all. In England, we lived nowhere near any of the professional teams, ice hockey of any standard was seldom on the box, so it's not surprising it never figured. In Finland, it's not easy to avoid it -- more so in the days before Canal+ got their mitts on the league's exclusive TV rights -- and in Oulu, nigh on impossible. I liked the speed and skill and physicality of the sport, but had to learn the ins and outs of what was going on via a language I barely understood. It took a while to stop calling icing long puck, this and other similar ineptitudes causing sniggering among my North American acquaintances, but eventually I got to the point of understanding the game. Or so I think.
My biases and prejudices among the SM Liiga clubs run like this. No surprises in that I support Kärpät (which translates into English as "The Stoats" or, if you want to take the piss, "The Weasels"), but also like Kerho, TPS and Lukko. I dislike HIFK and Ilves a bit, Jokerit, of course, a bit more, and Blues most of all. These are mostly for historical reasons, enabling me to care which way a televised match might go. For reasons not entirely unconnected with semi-final events of two seasons ago, I've taken a more dim view than previously of our friends in Pori. For the rest, something ranging from fairly neutral to sublime indifference.
Kärpät's league season starts tomorrow at Raksila against Blues. Defeat would not be pleasant. The team's largely stable from last year, notable absentees being Jari Viuhkola (NHL), Spede Pyörälä (Sweden), Viktor Ujcik (dunno) and Ross Lupaschuk (Siberia). Mikko Lehtonen's back after a year across the pond, oh and go on then, we've signed Jere Karalahti. Difficult to take in at first, I really wish we hadn't, but now he's in our colours I'll support him the same as the others. Let's hope "until he buggers things up" isn't needed.