Friday, November 9, 2007

Regression and digression

As previously covered, SM-liiga's on the first of its weekish long breaks, about a third of the season has gone and the original intention was to give a quick overview of proceedings so far. So let's have a go and see if we can stumble on anything exceptional. KalPa, Ässät and SaiPa are all in all too familiar territory in the nether regions of the table, HIFK are dodging around the lower cut-off line, while TPS have struggled northwards in the last few weeks. Plus ça change, as Saku Koivu (see, educational as well) might not say. In less familiar surroundings are HPK, Jukka Jalonen unsurprisingly proving a hard act to follow even for someone as clued up as Matti Alatalo. Starting the season with half the squad as newcomers can't have been easy for the ex-JYP man, and maybe their last game, a 3-4 victory in Raksila, the sort of home defeat I can just about tolerate, is a sign of better results to come. JYP themselves are squabbling over the mid-table positions with most of the usual suspects plus the nuclear powered foxes from Rauma. Jokerit are currently taking Buggins' turn to be third, which brings us next to Kärpät.

On the results front we've beaten KalPa unconvincingly three times, and suffered rare home defeats to SaiPa and Hannu Aravirta's gang from Lahti, the last one a genuinely good stuffing of the weasel. Pity poor Tappara though, who must be wishing games against us were three seconds shorter. Twice we've played them and twice we've beaten them, each time a decisive goal coming in the last two seconds of the game. On the player front we've suffered the seemingly usual gaggle of defensive injuries, the other side of the coin being that the younger defenders get more ice time and are playing well to boot. Extra cover was provided again by the ever reliable Ivan Majesky. Oskari Korpikari celebrated his 200th league game with a victory over Ässät, and in his 201st got hit in the face by the puck, breaking his jaw in several places. Mikko Lehtonen and Ilkka Mikkola are also sidelined, the former losing his place for the Karjala tournament no thanks to a dodgy back. Jere Karalahti's been out for 2-3 weeks now with a dead leg. Karalahti, ah yes, I knew he'd be at the centre of something that doesn't happen every day.

I wasn't present, but presumably last Tuesday's training session in Raksila was running quite normally. Until two police officers turned up, arrested Karalahti in connection with a drugs investigation and carted him off to Espoo for questioning, that is. Kärpät management are reportedly "gobsmacked" (my translation) that such a thing could have happened, seemingly unfamiliar with the idea that people with a colourful past such as Karalahti might just be carrying some baggage around. Looking on the bright side, it speaks volumes for the wayward one's reputation here that the old bill turned up at a scheduled training session with the expectation of finding him there, and actually succeeding. Coming to think of it, it also speaks volumes of the local plods that they had the wit to look for him at a scheduled training session. Let's face it, their powers of deduction aren't always unquestioned in these parts. The low point must be the car harpoon from the mid-'90s, with no one apparently able to work out beforehand the likely dangers associated with having a sharpened piece of solid metal attached to the front of a speeding car. To be fair though some do use their brains more profitably, like the time I was present during a daring daylight raid on a supermarket in Kaijonharju. The already unsteady robber, laden with a crate (24 bottles) of beer, shuffled his way craftily between the two checkouts, taking care not to interrupt the ongoing deep discussion. He would have made a clean, albeit dishevelled, getaway had he not farted all too loudly as the automatic doors opened for his exit, thereby causing the alarm to be raised. Half an hour later two of Oulu's finest sauntered onto the scene and casually took said felon from slumped against the supermarket wall, together with remains of crate, into custody.

Getting back somehow to Karalahti, today he gets to know his fate. Police must either release him or charge him. Missing three weeks through injury is one thing, but he'll miss a lot more than that if he ends up doing bird. By which utterly contrived means I turn to the one team so far not covered by the round up, Pelicans. C'mon, let's be honest, we may not have been too surprised to see them head the league after half a dozen or so games, but who amongst us would have reckoned on their staying there to this point? Not me, for sure. Will they last or will they fade? The latter, for my money, after the long season takes its usual injury toll. Now, about those bloody shirts of theirs...


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