Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 02/20/14 at 07:08 AM ET
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province at Canada.com,
In a tournament that includes the powerhouses from Canada, Sweden, the U.S., and, until recently, the star-crossed host team, Finland doesn’t measure up anywhere except on the ice. But on Friday, they meet their blood rivals from Sweden in the semifinal round of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament where, again, they’ll be the underdogs and, again, they’ll savour that role.
“Every time we go into tournaments like this we’re disrespected,” said forward Olli Jokinen, one of the many players who seems to grow a foot when they put on the Suomi jersey. “But the good thing for our country is no matter what names are on the back, Finland’s going to play the same way no matter who we have here. We could have 20 different guys here and the results would be the same. Finland’s going to play Finland’s way.”...
““I don’t think we are the favorites, honestly,” said Teemu Selanne, the aforementioned 43-year-old national icon who led the way against Russia with a goal and an assist. “We have four of our best centers out in this tournament (Mikko and Saku Koivu, Valterri Filpulla and Alex Barkov) , and usually we don’t have the kind of depth that some other teams have. But we believe and we work.
“Let’s see what happens.”
The Sweden-Finland rivalry doesn’t carry the same cachet as, say, U.S.-Canada or Russia-Canada but Scandanavia will stop for Friday’s encounter between the two old foes. Loosely stated, the Finns regard the Swedes as pompous, arrogant egotists who believe they’ve evolved from a higher order of being than their neighbours to the East. That, at least, is culturally and the hockey rivalry, which reached its zenith in Sweden’s 3-2 win gold-medal over Finland in Torino eight years ago, is a reflection of the friction between the two countries.
“Every year it’s the biggest game for us,” said forward Jori Lehtera, one of the eight KHL players on Finland. “It doesn’t matter where you play, if you play against Sweden you’re always pumped up.”
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