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Puckarinen Hits A Post

National treasures

On May 7, 1995, Ville Peltonen, the son of a Finnish national team player Esa, had a big dream come true. Anyone who’s ever played road hockey has also dreamed about scoring that Stanley Cup winning goal, or becoming a new Paul Henderson (or his equivalent in your country) by scoring a big goal for the national team.

Some of us take it a step further, and dream of scoring a hat trick.

And for some, the dreams do come true, because that’s exactly what Peltonen, then 21, did. He scored a hat trick in the 1995 World Championship final, as Finland beat Sweden 4-1. What made his hat trick a once-in-a-lifetime moment was the fact that that had also been a million other people’s dream, and for a good portion of Finns, an impossible dream.

Maybe not that Peltonen would score a hat trick, but that Finland would win a gold medal. Just four years earlier, Finland had still been without its first World Championship medal.

The nation went bananas. Over a hundred thousand people gathered in downtown Helsinki to welcome the team back home, and their celebration tour through the country took weeks.

With those three goals, Ville Peltonen became a national hero.

On May 13, 2011, in the second period of their World Championship semifinal against Russia, Finland’s Mikael Granlund won a puck battle in the corner against one Russian defenseman, went around another, and scored a jaw-dropping lacrosse-style goal to give Finland a 1-0 lead. Finland won the game 3-0, and went on to beat Sweden in the final, 6-1.

And the people came to the market square, the players took the championship trophy to their hometowns in the summer, and the nation was high on hockey again.

With the goal, and the gold, it’s now Mikael Granlund, 19, who’s the national treasure, and the golden boy of Finnish hockey. His goal was turned into a postage stamp just weeks after the final, he’s attended the Finnish President’s annual Independence Day reception, and has gone from athlete to celebrity, while leading his team in scoring in Finnish league, passing his high school final exams, and doing his military service last summer.

Oh, and representing Finland at the World Juniors.

In 1995, Peltonen left the country right after the summer to play in the NHL. Granlund, on the other hand, returned to the Finnish league and has had to live with the attention. And with Finland hosting the Worlds in May, there has been a lot of it.

“Yes, I do get recognized everywhere, and it would probably be easier for me to play somewhere else, that’s a fact. But it is what it is, people can say whatever they want,” Granlund says.

Unlike Peltonen, who got thrusted into the limelight almost overnight, and in a world with no Facebook or Twitter, Granlund has had some time to get used to being the focus of attention. Also, he has a fine mentor in the same dressing room. One Ville Peltonen.

“Maybe it’s been easier for him than it was for me. When we won the gold, everything just exploded and the hype surprised us completely,” says Peltonen, 38, the captain of IFK, the reigning Finnish champion.

“I was happy to leave Finland, I got tired of the whole World Championship hype fairly fast,” he adds.

“I admire the way Mikael’s handled everything, and it’s been a lot of fun to see him mature and grow to be a little more vocal in the room, and lead in every way, not just by example,” he adds.

It’s been quite a year for Granlund.

“A lot of things will have to fall into place perfectly for me to experience something similar. I mean, I played on two teams and both won a championship. Realistically said, that’s hard to top,” he says.

But sometimes those dreams come true.

Filed in: | Puckarinen Hits A Post | Permalink
  Tags: mikael+granlund, team+finland, ville+peltonen, worlds

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About Puckarinen Hits A Post

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

That's right, he's deep behind the enemy lines. He's also a regular contributor to IIHF.com, NHL.com, The Hockey News, and several publications in Finland and Sweden. He's also covered four World Championships and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the IIHF.

And since he foolishly hoisted the Stanley Cup in his twenties, he wakes up every morning knowing he will never be able to win it.