Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Forsberg in Helsinki

The news is out on There is a favourite for the upcoming Karjala cup. Foppa will lace his skate over his reconstructed ankle and come over the bay to line up with the Tre Kronor.

Tickets can be bought here if you are interested and have enough booing air stocked up in your lungs.

Forsberg is once again in a reflexion mode whether or not he will sign with the Wings, or the Ducks or the Avs or wherever. It probably is a legitimate process, his injury is/was serious, no doubt, but it makes one wonder. The man has a history of coming back when it counts. Or said differently, has a history of avoiding to be alongside his teammates for the long-haul work, showing up only when its time to shine and collect the glories.

Back in 2001, he opted to sit the year. The Avalanche having a solid enough squad to cruise to the playoffs with 41 year-old Ray Bourque lacing 'em up for 80 games, he opted to stay sidelined in Sweden, taking it easy and "healing" correctly while the rest of the boys did the dirty work. He showed up for the playoffs, all well and rested, Patrick Roy led them once again to Glory and he gets an extra ring on his fingers. Not too bad for a 20 games effort.

For last year's Olympics, he was in a questionable condition during all the qualification round. Leaving his team to be flogged 4-0 by Ovechkin and the Russians, before coming back all glorious in the medal round. Other teams worked their asses off throughout all the tournament. One team I won't name humiliated Canada and lost a good amount of teeth on the way to a perfect sheet before showing up undefeated but rightly so tired in the Finals.

So now, Peter is sitting out again this NHL season. Scanning which team has a shot at the cup while his Crocs sandals operation (who the fuck buys those, anyway?) compensates for his regular NHL salary. But at least he will grace Finnish ice for a quick round. A word to the Shedden Boys (or is it the Jalonen Boys already?) : "Make it a though one!"

Tappara beat Ilves yesterday to catch up with them in the rankings. Anssi Salmela scored the weekest goal given by a keeper I have ever seen in Pro Hockey, Tommy Salo included. Here you can see Tero Leinonen's failure in all its splendor. I also really liked the little dangle by Saviano that led to good old Janne Ojanen saying "Hey kid, cut the crap" and bury it the old fashioned way past Leinonen.

So here we stand with both Tampere teams with their heads above water. Good times ahead!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

HIFK Q&A today

Today is HIFK Q&A-session with official fan club and almost all keymen in HIFK. The meeting is only for the members (actually 25 of them) and probably that newsman who will take a cute photograph with the smiling club. Hopefully there will be real questions with real answers and not the general chitchat. Some questions (mostly in finnish) are in the Jatkoaika's thread but like someone there wrote are there anyone who has the guts to really question Matikainen and his actions with the club?

Before Matikainen took charge there have been only one bronze and if I remember correctly about 12 coaches. Only Shedden has been succesful but now he's at Ilmala with Harkimo and Kummola. Hannu Aravirta might have had the abilities to get HIFK back to top but he was sacked in the playoffs.

Next home game against SaiPa is a must-win. Before that HIFK only won Tappara and got one point from TPS. Previous game against Jokerit wasn't that bad so maybe there's hope.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pentti Ulos!

Can't find a better picture than this, unfortunately, but it seems the natives are getting restless down at Helsingin Jäähalli. Mika will be better able to explain this, but it seems like Pentti Mattikainen's days are numbered.


High octane fratricide matchup yesterday at Hakametsä. I sadly didn't get to attend but can still comment, that's what we're here for!

You get the highlights of the game here. Aamulehti apparently has got a contest out to find the least interesting person to lead off their highlights segment. They certainly have found a good contender for the title, Yrjö Kares might have been dead a while. I would suggest someone check his pulse.

The festivities started off with Marko Anttila getting a 5 + 20 min kneeing penalty. Hard time in the slammer. It is hard to find the footage of this but we, at HIF, have gotten exclusive coverage of the incident that you can find here. Tough call by the referee, because if we believe the tape, Anttila has a hard time bending his own knees in the first place (and Peltola badly needs a shave).

The play that led to Lehterä's goal was a superb effort from Jonas Enlund. with all the kindness in the world, he took time to put down Lehtivuori, tuck him in, sing him a lullaby, kiss him on the forehead, lie down next to him to pet his head a little and relay the puck to his linemate for the kill. Great play!

But Tappara had to tank it. They blew a 4-2 lead entirely in the 3rd to lose the 1 point they could have been salvaging with 5 seconds to go. Two penalties for dumping the puck over the glass handed in the last two minutes resulted in a two man advantage for Ilves. A real game killer and a real sign of panic from the defending team. One of the penalties was handed out to André Benoit, so all Tappara fans can now sign along: Blame Canada!

I have got to point out though that my fellow country man is now the most used player on the Tappara squad with 22:05 minutes of ice time a game on average and the best +/- stats on the team at 6. He stands nicely as the 5th highest scoring defenseman in the SM-Liiga, so if he drops the ball once in a while he can maybe be forgiven.

The rankings are still very tight in the middle, but with this win, Ilves has elevated its head above the Tropic of Cancer, passing Tappara for 5th. Hopefully both Tampere teams can remain in that pack, so that we get interesting post season battles this year. This remains to be seen!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oh and peace broke out in the world

Helsingin Sanomat brings news (in Finnish) of cats and dogs living together - or, as they put it, of Jokerit supporters and the Hämeenlinna hockey arena settling their row.

It got started during last season's playoffs when a group of Jokerit supporters, displeased with the seating arrangements, took out their displeasure on the seats. The Rinkelinmäki folks responded by banning said fans and a few extra besides from the arena until they cough up 5'000 euros.

Now JF-Club, a Jokerit fan club, has agreed to pay for a portion of the damages, although the figure is well short of the demanded sum. Rinkelinmäki, for its part, will once again be open even to Jokerit supporters.

And they didn't even need Martti Ahtisaari to mediate.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ilves 3 JYP 1

JYP really aren't doing very well at the moment. They don't seem able t hit a rhythmn, and after conceding early goals they were always chasing their tails. Once again Marko Antilla had a decent game and he was unlucky not to score, Dwight Helminen got into a few tussles, Sinuhe Wallinheimo bawled out Jarkko Immonen for an unnecessary penalty in the first period and the Ilves cheerleaders have a routine for Finland's national anthem.

The Pharoah is obviously JYP's leader. It's funny to see a goaltender shouting louder than the rest of them team (and most of the crowd) but that's what Wallinheimo does. He used to be suspected of dislodging the goalposts a little too often, but he's now made his peace with the referees and is a very good keeper. I certainly wouldn't want to piss him off.

Lahti Rules!?

The Lahti Pelicans are garnering a lot of attention these days with their stellar season start. They came out of the gate swinging high this year and finally, The Chicago of Finland team stopped shadowing the results of their sister city's Blackhawks and put up the results the City desperately needs.

It is still early in the season, the wind could start blowing in any other direction any game now, but they are worth mentioning at this stage, in this blog, as well as on it seems. The NHL has vowed to increase its presence in Europe and they are doing so by showcasing a feature called Across the Pond on their website's main page. You don't learn much more there than you would by surfing the site or deciphering with very low Finnish comprehension but hockey instincts on and odds are M. Meltzer wrote that column from the comfort of his West Chester, PA, home, far away from Vesijärvi (what an original name!). Then again, you don't learn much more on this blog than you would googling for barnyard pornography, so M. Meltzer, hats off to you, nice to see that someone is paying attention, shedding some light on this country as the sun is withdrawing on us, a little further day by day. One question though, why is your one website coattail riding on Mikael Renberg's fame?

One NHL/SM-Liiga related mystery that remains unsolved to me - and most others who have nothing better to do - is the brief stint of Sean Avery in Lahti. During the lockout, he lined up with the Pelicans for 2 games, 3 goals scored, these are the recorded facts. It would make you believe the man was here for a walk in the park and would have stayed around to boost his rather low stocks (at the moment) anchoring the low expectations Pelicans attack and adding a few scraps with the SM-Liiga's best and brightest, namely Shelley and Westcott with Jyp and that Ogre, Pauli Levokari then with Ässät (here is some rare footage of Levokari playing with his son).

But after these two outings, the man disappeared, left without a trace. Breach of contract, never to be seen again. He resurfaced a while later in the USHL but in the meantime, the portrait is shady. Uninformed sources rumour that he has mingled with the wrong crowd, Laotians posing as Thaï masseuses, Kazakh mobsters or long-legged Karelians from the wrong side of the border, who carry lipstick and shaving cream in their hand purse.

Chances are he simply couldn't bear the prospect of a winter in Lahti. I spent, sorry sacrified, 2 of my winters to this god forsaken town and if I had had his options, believe me, I would have fled like Frank Morris. But I would like to have some light shone on this episode. If anyone has more info, please enlighten us (as well as our 3 readers). Please!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hullut Päivät!

Finns are great bargain hunters. Flea markets, police auctions, pick your own strawberries - this country is full of opportunities to reduce the cost of living. The big department stores get in on the act, when they sell a huge number of discounted lines over 3 or 4 days and make a large proportion of their annual profits.

It's Stockmann's Hullut Päivät next week. They will sell huge amounts of everything, from chocolate and marshmallows to holidays in Thailand. Every day from Wednesday to Saturday they will release different products to the expectant crowds, who will queue stupidly early to get their hands on the stuff and fight with other crazed consumers.

On Wednesday of next week, they will be selling season tickets for 7 SM Liiga clubs at €235. I'm not sure how great the seats are, and you've missed a few games, but that's a bit of a bargain. The clubs are TPS, Ilves, Tappara, Kärpät, Blues, HIFK and Jokerit.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

HIFK, what's going on?

After few good games the season has gone down the drain. There have been four games, zero points:

HIFK-Lukko 0-1
HIFK-KalPa 0-2
Kärpät-HIFK 3-1

It's been pretty miserable for HIFK fans. First there was bizarre one minute horrorshow against JYP. After that they lost 0-1 against Lukko and then hopefully seasons lowest moment 0-2 defeat against KalPa. Yesterdays defeat against Kärpät wasn't so strange but at least now they got one goal. Sounds pathetic but maybe now they'll understand it pretty hard to win games without scoring.

Game against Lukko wasn't something one would hope for saturday evening. First period was ok, there were a lot of chances and it looked like things are going ok. After that something wierd happened and second and third period were just miserable.

Mondays game was even worse. Nothing was learned from saturday so KalPa got their points easier than Lukko. In post-game interview Mikko Laine said that it was KalPa who were good but I don't think that's the case. HIFK was just so awful it might have looked like it was KalPa that were good. Yes they did win but they didn't really have to do anything else than stand in the center of ring while HIFK was circling around the ice. At one time it looked like HIFK was about to get back to game but after a while Tuppurainen got the second goal. In tuesday they lost to Kärpät but it's not so strange. Kärpät are pretty good and they're playing for the gold while HIFK plays just to get season over. Hopefully things will bet better but I'm a little skeptic about that.

If you've read Jatkoaika there are a lot of talk about who should go. Manager Pentti Matikainen has had his chances in the HIFK so looks like he's the one who is going to go. I wonder will it happen sooner or later? Maybe after season there might be changes in management but who knows.. I doubt that even the HIFK board doesn't know what to do.

Tomorrow's game is against Ilves and while writing this Arttu Luttinen will return to HIFK. I don't know will that help anything but maybe he will go to goal to put the puck in the net.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Rise of Frankenstein

My eyes are bleeding this morning. Perhaps Marko Anttila has read my previous posts and now is out on a rampage of vengeance and rabid goal scoring. I open the recap of yesterday's game against TPS and here it is, the ice breaker AND the game winner, both scored by the same man who's body frame could only have been reconstituted by a mad scientist going through the leftovers from Lempäälä's dissection facilities.

Ok, when you look at the highlights, you find out that his first goal wasn't meant to be a shot at all, but was an interrupted pass that he may or may not have batted through the goalie subsequently. The second though was a different animal. In all his slow-motion splendour, Anttila went on undisturbed by Petri Koskinen's vain attempt to move the colossus off his course. Then a precise wrist shot got the puck were it wanted to be. Kuddos on that one, finally using the size given to him by his Creator to bulldoze through opponent's defences. Here you can get a longer view of the move Anttila used on Koskinen.

That same size got Anttila to be chosen straight out of the Fourth tier league back in the 2004 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a long shot by all means, like most 9th round picks would be. By the following year, the NHL had shortened its draft to 7 rounds, presumably to avoid giving false hopes of World Recognition to the good folks of Lempäälä, but too late, the damage was done. All in all though, if an average of 5 points a year with never more than 46 penalty minutes per season for a 6 foot 7 anomaly of nature gets Anttila an invite to next year's training camp at the United Center, I buy the next round for all of our readers!

Funny enough, Montréal's long shot that year was to pick the Captain of Team Switzerland, defenceman Mark Streit, only two ranks after Chicago's selection. Streit is groomed to take the place of Sheldon Souray on the Power Play this year (yeah, good luck with that, but still...) and won the Jacques-Beauchamp trophy last year, an internal club honour for a player that has played a determining role in the success of the team without withdrawing any particular recognition for it. The year previous, they drafted Jaroslav Halak in the 9th. It goes to show that you can get lucky with these far-fetched selections sometimes, but odds are it just won't happen.

As a follow up on Yesterday's investigation of the missing HPK scorers from last year, I found out, leafing through IltaSanomat's NHL supplement that Mikko Mäenpää maybe was not lying face down on a bathroom floor on the outskirts of Hermia with long dead hopes to be discovered, but is instead headed to Colombus to pursue the American Dream! "The day they laid poor Pancho low, Mikko split for Ohio" like the song would say. Problem is I checked the Blue Jackets' website and of course the kid hasn't made the team, but furthermore, he is not on their In The System feature either. He is not listed as a member of their AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch, neither is he with their ECHL affiliate, the Dayton Bombers. News of his signing can be found through superficial googling, but no news of the man and even more worrying, for his parents probably more than for a chance observer as I, is that he was not even on the training camp roster.

So what happened to Mikko Mäenpää between the 1st of June and now. If anyone has got any clues on his whereabouts, please contact Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries. Here you get the proper form. Or just write a comment at the bottom of this post, but I can't promise to be as efficient as Mister Stack or wear a raincoat with the same aplomb either.

On the subject of this article in Ilta Sanomat's NHL supplement, since it just came out and gives you the impression that each player is destined to play for the team that invited him to camp, let's put a couple things straight. (Although if we undertake the task of setting straight all the crap printed in Ilta Sanomat and other misinformation papers of the sort, we got a lifetime of work ahead of us, but let's give this a crack, shall we?)

The NHL season is officially started and camps have wrapped up. None of the players listed cracked the opening night's lineup, not even came close. Here's where they ended up:

Petri Kontiola (Chicago) : Assigned to Rockford Icehogs yesterday the 1st. He didn't fare too bad at all, being part of the last train to Winnebago County along with prized prospects Cam Barker and Jack Skille.

Janne Lahti (Montréal) : Went mainly unnoticed at training camp (only two articles on him in La Presse, this is nothing!), got assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs on the 24th of September along with a bunch of no names (except for avid Montréal fans who prey upon the lives of these people.)

Sami Lepistö (Washington) : I bet he would be on the Hershey Bears if they would update their website, they have his name somewhere but the picture doesn't do justice to the boy.

Perttu Lindgren (Dallas) : Like announced in a previous post, Lindgren got retrograded to the AHL on the 27th of last month but I made a mistake back then, it is not to Utah he is going, but he rather is Iowa bound. Like Tom Petty said in the song Yer so Bad: "I Can't Decide which is Worse!"

Mikko Mäenpää (Colombus) : Ok, I'll break the thick suspense: here you go! (and not "here you are" like most Finnish waitresses seem to think is proper English phrasing.)

Janne Niskala (Nashville) : Seemed to fare quite ok and got the ticket on the 28th along with fellow Finn and high prized prospect Pekka Rinne to report in to the Admirals of Beer City.

Antti Pihlström (Nashville) : I found an interesting article on the Predators' site about Pihlström, Rinne, Teemu Laakso, Ville Koistinen, Oliver Setzinger (a HPK/Pelicans/Ilves alumni) and a few others about crossing the Atlantic to take on the North American Challenge. But for the matter at hand, Pihlström's challenge will have to get through Milwaukee as well.

Tuukka Rask (Boston) : Ilves' Pride was sent on the 25th to Providence, in order to be groomed as the heir of Fernandez between the pipes. Here's a nice article written three days prior to his exit. He played half of one preseason game, giving up 2 goals in 29 minutes.

Juuso Riksman (St.Louis) : On the same day, this other Finnish goalie in the list was assigned to Peoria, along the Illinois River.

Jari Viuhkola (New Jersey) : The Kärpät forward found his tickets for Massachussetts awaiting on the 28th of last month.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Reijo Surfacing

Odd top five this Tuesday morning in the SM-Liiga. Gotta love it though: the Season of the Underdogs. Kärpät are lower than normal but figure as the odd man in an otherwise unfamiliar picture compared to what the league has gotten us accustomed to over the past few years. And all the better for that.

Meanwhile, our Tampere teams hover in the qualification zone, the limbo of the league. Tappara was playing HPK on Nelonen this Saturday and for as much as I had the leisure to see, they put up a good effort. Ok, that was only the second period, when they were up 3-0 and seemed to be dominating all aspects of the game. Great puck moving, overall game control and scoring chances galore. That was until my daughter shut the TV, she cannot stand anything else than Muumipeikko and his bunch on the idiot box, can't blame her and I love her for that.

They managed to blow their lead in order to make it interesting for the crowd one would guess, but still carried on to a narrow victory over Hämeenlinna's diminished squad. Highlights here, including the lightning fast solo effort of Steve Saviano, bloody effective! By the way, I have to point out that this was Tappara's first victory without the help of André Benoit on the scoring sheet. About time this team stops relying on French Canadians to do all the scoring, hehe.

HPK looks - on paper at least - like they've weathered a heavy storm over the summer that has forced a great deal of their roster's talent to jump over board. 5 of their top 7 players points-wise vanished in the mist. Leino dominates with Jokerit now while reports have been filed with the Police on the disappearance of Hassinen, Maenpää and Pihlström and light should be shed soon enough. Unreliable sources tell me the dragging of Ahvenistonjärvi turned only unlinkable evidence such as a blood encrusted Sälibandy stick and a keychain sporting the logo Kemi Über Alles. Their top goal scorer from last season, Janne Lahti, has flown over the Atlantic and under the radar of Montreal's training camp evaluators, which got him to land on the Calder Cup Champions Hamilton Bulldogs' roster.

Holes have been plucked of course, most notably by the addition of seasoned veteran Turkulainen Kai Nurminen. I was most shocked by his defection from his home team after so many years of loyal services as the face of the franchise. (Ok, as the nose of the franchise, while Kiprosoff has filled the duties of mullet of the franchise with great panache.) Nurminen has donned the Golden Helmet on many outings for TPS and was seen as a leader at least from what I have seen on the three occasions I have had the chance to see him play live, sitting in the first row behind the player's bench. He could be a dominating player at times and something must have gone haywire with TeePSi for the 38 year old to pack his bags and immigrate to Hämeenlinna. If anyone has more info on the subject, feel free to enlighten us through the comments section.

The one major overhaul that has taken place with HPK is not amongst the roster though, but rather behind the bench with the exile of Kalevi Numminen trophy winner Jukka Jalonen toward the greener pastures of the Leijonat squad where he is the heir apparent to Ontarian Doug Shedden as head coach. Jalonen used to run a tight ship in Hämeenlinna, with a style I would dare compare to Hall of Famer and two times Jack Adams winner Jacques Lemaire who is coaching in Hockey State, USA, at the moment. Efficient, hard-working, meticulous and mind crushingly boring defensive hockey. No emphasis put on a talented roster but rather on puck dumping, trap practising, hermetical zone defense. Can't argue with results though with HPK winning the title two years back with no flash whatsoever in the lineup (with the exception of dwarf-wonder Jukka Voutilainen, the Finnish Martin Saint-Louis, playing with a stick the size of his ambitions). Now I have been told that Matti Alatalo draws good praise already at the helm but results will have to come soon and the first solution could be to get reinforcements to pad the team in front of Chiodo and Lassila.

Ilves fared good over the weekend also and Kontiola asserts himself as the man of the grand occasions, helping his team beat the Suburban Blues to the ground somewhere in the God-forsaken faraway woods of Espoo.

In quite less SM-Liiga related news, last week saw an interesting little competition took place in Salzburg, Austria between four teams of uneven levels. The stacked by Austrian standards hosts Red Bull Salzburg EC, the Swiss powerhouse HC Davos, HC Färjestads from the next country left and the team formerly owned by Uncle Buck/John Candy, from the City of Angels, the Kings. The results are fairly irrelevant, no huge surprise apart from the 3-0 lead that the hosts, who seemed under the effect of Tyrone's fabled Red Balls, took over the Kings in their first match-up. This was quickly solved by future all-star and neighbourhood boy Anže Kopitar from down the road a little over 100km South East over the Slovenian border with a hat trick that left no doubt on the kid's potential.

What was interesting to me in that tournament is the composition of the various teams. Something that never fails to amaze me is how sports careerists reinvent themselves and their trade in the most unlikely places. The current coach of Salzburg is none other than the second to last man who mended the bench in my Province's Capital city. Pierre Pagé almost directed one of the most star studded casts of player the NHL has known in the 90s. He got fired before the franchise finally got it together after the 1993-94 campaign, leading them into their last season of a long spell being excluded of the series and being the laughing stock of most everyone in the league but especially of us, Canadiens fans.

The team he left to the hands of Mark Crawford counted amongst its ranks the names of Burnaby Joe Sakic, Northern Ireland's own Owen Nolan, a green little rookie known as Foppa, Scott Young, Valeri Kamensky, Uwe Krupp, Adam Deadmarsh, Adam Foote and now-Islanders GM Garth Snow. Oh, and one Janne Laukkanen from Lahti! that I have to mention since I promised not to stray away so much from Finnish hockey. This team was one goalie removed from total dominance of the league. They moved South, stole Roy from us, during that time, Pierre Pagé checked in at the unemployment agancy and the rest is history.

Now in the Alps, the cast is not that glamorous any longer. But by Austrian league standards, the Energy drink sponsor does seem to have splashed quite a bit of money in order to give Pagé that championship he craves for. Frank Banham who I saw literally flying on the ice for SaiPa a couple years back, anchors the offence. Reinhard Divis, the first Austrian ever to reach the NHL when he warmed the bench in Saint-Louis, is between the pipes. Stanley Cup winner as an extra with the Ducks last year, Richard Jackman finds himself solidifying the blueline. NHL journeyman Josh Green who played 50 some games last year for Vancouver, and skated for no less than 8 NHL teams in his career, is on the wing. Olympic Gold medallist Daniel Tjärnqvist is a late addition on defense, he was the first Swedish player to win a championship in the SM-Liiga, it was with Jokerit in '97, by the way. Not too shabby at all.

But the main point of interest for Finnish readers here is the man backing Pagé behind the bench: Hall of Famer - he's got his jersey on the wall in Vaprikki - former Ranger and two time Stanley cup winner with the Oilers alongside the Great One, Reijo Ruotsalainen. Along with Kurri and Tikkanen, he constitutes my first memories of how Finnish names can be weird. If only I would have known that it simply meant Réjean Le Suédois!

An interesting bunch by all means, remains to see how much the Austrians give a shit about Pierre and Reijo's drive for the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga's greatest honours, however great they might be!