Puckarinen Hits A Post
A couple of weeks ago, I found the local hockey club’s new magazine in our mailbox. Our Sollentuna Hockey is a tiny club, with a men’s team in the fourth highest division in Sweden, but it’s also one that is proud to have Mats Sundin as an alumnus. For the first issue they had even got an interview with the man himself.
That, naturally, pulled me in, and as I read the story at the breakfast table, I mumbled that I probably should go watch their games and support the local club. And that maybe Son would like to tag along.
“No, no, I’m not interested in such a violent sport,” said Son from across the table without looking up from his comic book.
“Oh, come on, hockey’s not violent. It’s great athletes doing wonderful things in high speed, using skates and sticks, it’s not easy. It’s the fastest game on earth,” I said.
“But they fight all the time,” he said.
I was stunned.
Hockey has gone global. At least as global as it can at the moment, taken into consideration that little hockey is played in Latin America or Asia or Africa. But within the hockey community, there are few isolated pockets anymore.
That’s why the New York Rangers Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s mask is decorated with a commemorative “Liv 1” sticker just like all goalies in the Swedish Elitserien have. The idea was Linköping’s Finnish goalie Fredrik Norrena’s who was just as shocked as everybody else with the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv’s - Liv’s team’s - plane crash.
There are Finnish players and coaches in Russia, Americans in Sweden, and Canadian coaches and players … well, everywhere.
We all tweet and text, and information travels faster than ever. Anything interesting happening in Russia tonight will be on Kuklas Korner by the time it’s time for New Yorkers to go home. (If New Yorkers went home at 5 pm like people in Sweden).
Unfortunately, even the problems travel fast.
It’s the NHL week in Europe, that time of the year when the National Hockey League big machine rolls into Europe and gives hockey fans a taste of the big league/s.
This year, the NHL Premiere, and the training camps that precede the regular season openers, sees NHL teams play in Helsinki, Hamburg, Mannheim, Berlin, Bratislava, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Zug, and Prague. That’s four teams playing 11 games in Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.
And with the flags waving, and the people cheering, the obvious question is: could it be done all the time? Is there room for the Helsinki Fins or the Stockholm Swede? Or, more importantly, would the marketplace support an NHL team?
The IIHF President René Fasel is fond of saying that “there is no such thing as a clean hit to the head”, referring to the fact that the IIHF rules don’t allow that kind of checks.
That’s true, and all leagues should do everything they can to minimize the number of hits to the head in their games. Concussions are almost commonplace these days. And not always just as a result of dirty, or reckless plays.
All teams have players who know what one feels like.
In Sweden, Djurgården’s Jimmie Ölvestad just got a two-game suspension for hitting Luleå’s Mattias Persson in the head with his elbow. Persson suffered a concussion in the play. Ölvestad’s teammate Daniel Tjärnqvist missed almost three months last year due to a concussion, and Djurgården’s goalie last season, Stefan Ridderwall, missed a few games due to a concussion.
Helsinki IFK raised their championship banner before their regular season opener with team captain Ville Peltonen unveiling the 2011 banner.
Frederik Andersen, the Danish league MVP in 2010, and Player of the Year in 2011, signed with Frölunda Indians in the Swedish Elitserien, and has got off to a fantastic start.
Mikael Granlund doesn’t seem to be suffering from any post-World Championship gold, post-Finnish championship gold, post-postage stamp hangover, as he’s collected five points in his first two games.
Vesa Toskala is back making saves, Shjon Podein was back in Växjö. And Mike Denton saved a man’s life.
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Tags: frederik+andersen, hifk, ifk+ore, ilves, mikael+granlund, mike+danton, patrick+galbraith, sami+kapanen, shjon+podein, växjö+lakers, vesa+toskala, viktor+fasth, ville+peltonen
NO PLACE LIKE HOME? Whether his plan was to stir the pot, or whether things just happened that way, Jarkko Ruutu found a way to make himself the talk of the town when he signed a three-year contract with Helsinki Jokerit last week.
Not only is it always big news when an NHL veteran returns home, but to sign with the archrival of his former Helsinki team, IFK, made it even bigger. After all, Ruutu had come up through IFK’s system, and won the Finnish title with the club in 1998, together with, for example, Tim Thomas, Brian Rafalski, Kimmo Timonen, and Olli Jokinen.
A lot of things have changed since then. Only two players on that 1998 team still play with IFK, and the then-GM Jarmo Kekalainen, former St. Louis Blues Assistant GM, and IFK’s then-coach Erkka Westerlund, are gone as well.
However, both are now with Jokerit and they know what they’re getting in Ruutu.
“We needed one more forward, and we couldn’t have found a better one,” said Westerlund, who also had Ruutu on his team in three World Championships, the 2004 World Cup, and the 2006 Olympics during his time as Team Finland coach.
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.