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Puckarinen Hits A Post

Once in a lifetime

Sidney Crosby’s return to NHL action last night was one of those larger-than-life moments, especially with the way he capped his comeback with a four-point performance. It was one of those games that forced European TV networks to quickly change the schedule, and pick up the Penguins-Islanders games instead of whatever else they had had in mind. (Sorry about that all you local Finnish/Swedish boys).

It may not be a true “where-were-you-when” moment, but it was a memorable event. There are only so many truly unforgettable moments anyway, and what makes those few truly great is the fact that they are just that: moments.

Paul Henderson’s goal. Crosby’s Olympic game-winner. Kovalchuk’s wrist shot at the Worlds in Quebec. Tommy Salo’s goof up at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

An entire game is a little more difficult to capture, but even that can be turned into a moment that will stay with you: “Where were you when you heard about Miracle on Ice?”

Or in my case, “where were you when you heard that Belarus had beat Sweden at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City?”

For me, Belarus’s game-winning goal wasn’t the moment. I’ve seen it many, many times, I’ve heard the players talk about it, I’ve seen the parody stamps, and I’ve read the newspaper stories. but I don’t have a where-were-you-when-Vladimir-Kopat-beat-Tommy-Salo moment.

Back then, in the winter of 2002, I was so confident, so sure that Sweden was going to beat Belarus that I didn’t even watch the game.

I wasn’t writing about the tournament, anyway, so when Wife told me she had tickets to a movie, I didn’t even flinch but said, “sure”. Back then she wasn’t Wife yet, she was Girlfriend, so maybe that played into it, too. You know, “It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes, but it might just save your life, that’s the power of love.”

So movie it was.

The Sound of Music.

The sing-along version.

There I was, barking at Rolf, the evil Nazi, and wondering how you solve a problem like Maria. Not even “Ray, a drop of golden sun” in “Do-Re-Mi” made me think of Ray Bourque or Ray Ferraro. The hills were alive, and so was I.

At half time, I turned on my cell phone, to see if I had got any messages. Text messages, that is. I was leaning against the stage like Joe Cool, when the first message got in. As I opened that one, my phone vibrated a second time, and a third one.

“Ha ha ha, chicken Swedes lost to €#%% Belarus, eat that, Sundin,” read the first one. As did the second one, from the same Finnish buddy.

My legs started to shake. All blood rushed from my arms. 

“What’s wrong?” Girlfriend asked me.

“They … they lost the game,” I said. Girlfriend looked at me dumbfounded.

“What’s that?”

“Unbelievable. Unreal. Can’t be true. But, I mean, Sundin … and Forsberg…” I mumbled.

I read the next message. That one had the score. All the messages were from my friends in Finland, some echoing the sentiments of the first message, others just asking me what I thought about the Miracle in Salt Lake.

Beads of sweat were running down my temples as I sat down in my seat, and started to text back to my friends. Girlfriend looked at me in disbelief.

“It’s just a hockey game, you know,” she said. “Got any popcorn left?”

I gave her the bucket, and just stared ahead.

My legs were still shaking, but not because Sweden had lost. My legs were shaking because I had missed a Huge Moment, and that made me angry. To this day, whenever I think about that tournament, I think of Julie Andrews.

In the second act, I really let Rolf, the evil Nazi, have it, whenever he showed up on the screen. “ROLF! ROLF! ROLF!” I barked. But “Me” wasn’t a name I called myself.

That name was “idiot.”

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer. He wrote this in Sollentuna, Sweden, eating Toblerone chocolate, dreaming of the Alps. You can follow him on Twitter as Puckarinen.

Filed in: | Puckarinen Hits A Post | Permalink
  Tags: julie+andrews, olympics, sidney+crosby, team+sweden, tommy+salo

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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.