(Fuck me, is that the canon spelling?)
My name's Aapo and I'm a Jyp fan. You can also call me Aapo, and, I tell you, not everybody can. The two "A" letters are pronounced as if they were one vowel and half in English, after them comes a "P" as in lavatories or in Finnish streets at weekends, and the last "O" to stretch your mouth and eyes wide open shares the same phonetics with her sisters within Olokkosen Grilli's Olokkonen. Hence I am not Apoo, Habo or Apu, thank you very much.
My team is normally referred to as JYP, but by casually dropping the extra capitals and referring to it as Jyp - or Jyppi, if communicating in my mother tongue - I'm making a statement that I've followed the team for long enough to distinguish myself from other hockey wonks and to drop those extra capitals, casually and just like Seppo Mäkelä used to drop face-off pucks.
Living in London (and thus being the only one of us without a national level hockey team in his city) I bring some expatriative equilibrium into this blog's contributorship. I was born in Suolahti, a small town relatively close to Jyväskylä, which is usually known for its contributions to Finnish metal, be it either the musical or the industrial side of it. Here you can see the Machine Men vocalist Antony with two of his fans - one being a three-time Selke Trophy winner, another the only man ever traded for Mike Ribeiro - whereas here you can watch Jyp players and their new coach, Risto Dufva, having a tour in our world-famous tractor factory. "Managing a hockey team is like managing a modern tractor assembly line", as they say. Suolahti boasts a hockey team of its own, too; 99 year young Urho play, to my knowledge, in the fourth tier. To a contemporary observer the best known player in Urho's history is probably Juha Junno, the CEO of Kärpät.
Which by no means necessitates that I'd like Kärpät. When Jyp last time was having a satisfactory season, 2002-03, it was indeed Kärpät who emerged 02-03 victorious from our quarter-final series, and, as it happens, I have decided not to like any club who have beaten Jyp in quarter-finals, semi-finals or finals proper. Such clubs are many, and I may later elaborate my feelings towards every single of them - anatomising, for instance, that catharhic sensation I experienced in the evening of last Independence Day, when I and my task force witnessed Jyp snatching an overtime victory in Bagel's Hill, Kerho's atmospheric home lair - but later, indeed, means not now.
Though let me state that I've recently felt rather neutral about all three from Helsinki. Maybe it's because against HIFK and Jokerit we've typically played (relatively) well, and that sausage team from their suburbia anyway never wins anything so, apart from unavoidable mischief, I haven't cared much for them. Until two seasons ago, when they won an eighth-final series (yes, we do have also those in SM-Liiga) against Jyp. That said, Jokerit, for their part, have actually beaten us in the real, ultimate finals, yet that happened with Selänne and Janecky in 1992, and the years have allowed my grudge to turn milder.
Well, there's one eighth-final defeat after that, but you get my point; in hockey it takes approx fifteen seasons for the sins of your fathers to be forgiven. For the same reason I incite no hatred of massive scale against TPS, either, that another team ever to deny the Canada Bowl from Jyp, back in 1989. And Tepsi's recent fall from grace has been so striking that if you're to come across as a mature sport following individual you just pity them. They will be absolute crap this season.
Jyp did okay in Kuopio on Thursday. Kalpa went down 3-1 and, more importantly, the comeback kids Immonen and Virtanen scored one each, with Tommi Hannus shooting the last one. All of them are expected to be industrious in offense, so it was nice from them to uncork their bottles before the party gets sweatier. Dwight Helminen, the older one of our Yankee brothers, having recovered from a broken jaw, is expected to debut on Saturday, meaning that pretty much for the first time since the days of Dolezal et al Jyp are experiencing an over-supply of decent forwards - which, at the end of the day, is hoped to more than match the shortage of solid defensemen. We'll see about that; I'm personally putting my faith in the younger Helminen and Mäntymaa from Tappara proving key players, and some of the old defense guard to improve from the last season. If that happens, and if the Egyptian remains the usual safe pair of hands, succumbing to no injuries, we stand a chance to make it into the top four. That ought to secure that the financial risk of this season - doubling the player budget - would pay off too.
It'll be the first home match of the season and it'll be against Tappara, the team I probably hate most. This antagonism dates back to the turn of the millennium when Tappara started to exploit Jyp's plight and seduce our best players to the brighter lights of Hakametsä. Almost always it proved a wise career move for the lads, yet I've never been a man great enough to admit it, and then there was of course the eighth-finals in March 2005 when Jarkko Immonen and our fantastic Blue Jackets lockout duo, Westcott & Shelley, were meant to take us beyond the annual ice ceiling of the eighth-finals, and who knows how afar. Tappara were a piece of mustamakkara in the first game, but during its second intermission Westcott allegedly punched or headbutted Tappara's Pasi Puistola in the face and got a game misconduct with a two matches ban. Puistola was of course an innocent passer-by on the way to his intermission bottle of Smurf lemonade, so to him Reijo "Pim-Pom-Ding-Dong" Ringbom gave only sympathy. The second game in Hakametsä witnessed Jody Shelley giving a proper, rough but clean check to Robert "Cantor" Kantor but, as he was the physically bigger counterpart and those couple of crimson drops from Robert "Cantor" Kantor's nose were enough to convince the ref - someone else than Reijo "Pim-Pom-Ding-Dong" Ringbom - of Shelley's intrinsic brutality, the SM-Liiga policy on the encounters between bigger and smaller players and the drops of blood dictated that he was sent to an early shower. Tappara scored the only goal of the match during the five minute power play that was to follow, and the decisive third game I watched in Grand Star Cafe on Hämeenkatu, a sport bar full of Tappara-jerseyed locals. A Tappara woman next to me and my Chilliwackian (that's where the music video of Summer of '69 was filmed, cowboy) mate was spitting the floor, insulting Jyp players and swearing like women not from Tampere certainly don't swear. Then we lost.
So, my name's Aapo and I'm a Jyp fan. I'll be following my team via SM-Liiga's impressively sluggish website and posting my varyingly random thoughts once in a while. When I say "not now", it does or does not mean "later".
The readers who have made it this far get an Easter egg for their effort: the highlights of a pre-season match between JyP HT and Tappara, played in Mänttä, on 7th of September, 1993.