Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/10/11 at 01:09 PM ET
This year’s IIHF World Championships have been pretty wild. Some countries have played much better than expected and others haven’t performed as well as expected. Finland is always expected to be in the medal hunt, but this year, they’re being accused of being lucky rather than good.
There’s a story on the story on the IIHF home page about how Finland, and specifically Tuomo Ruutu, a href=“http://www.iihf.com/channels-11/iihf-world-championship-wc11/news/news-singleview-2011/article/bounces-players-best-friend.html?tx_ttnews[backPid]=4926&cHash=3de9549f67”>has been in the right place at the right time with a lot of frequency.
Finland is no stranger to luck at the IIHF tournament. I’m sure we all remember the 2008 game between Finland and the USA, when Ville Koistinen was credited with a goal that should not have counted. More on that in a bit. This year, they’ve been the benefactor of some lucky bounces, but the bottom line is that they’ve put themselves in the spot to reap those benefits. The harder you work, the more good luck you will have. Something like that, anyway.
Okay, so it was May 11 of 2008. Finland and the USA were squaring off in one of the final qualifying games. USA had a 2-0 lead early in the third, but Finland had a long five-on-three power play. Teemu Selanne sent a pass through the slot to defenseman Koistinen, who fired a one-timer into the net. The only problem is that it didn’t cross the goal line. Somehow, it went through the side skirting of the net. The play went under review, but it, mysteriously, was allowed to stand. It was clear, even to the Finnish television announcers that it shouldn’t have counted, but it did. Finland went on to win that game 3-2. A couple of days later, they also beat USA 3-2, knocking the Americans out of the tournament.
Here’s the video, with a couple of different looks at the (no) goal:
There hasn’t been anything like that this year, but Tuomo Ruutu has been at the center of some pretty crazy plays that resulted in goals for Finland. Against Germany, Ruutu attempted a centering pass to Mikku Koivu. It ended up missing Koivu’s stick, but deflected off a German defenseman’s stick and in the goal. Later in the game, Finland tied the game on another crazy Ruutu goal. He fired a shot from low in the right circle. It hit the side of the net, bounced up, hit the German netminder’s back, and popped in.
Against Slovakia, Tuomo Ruutu scored two goals for the second game in a row. The first of them hit him in the butt and went in. The second was an honest goal.
After two straight games of Finland in general and Tuomo Ruutu specifically getting some really good bounces, that was what the press wanted to talk about in the post-game interviews, and here’s how that went down (from the article on the IIHF website)
Tuomo Ruutu gave one reporter a lecture on the topic after Finland’s game against Slovakia when the reporter took up the fact that, well, his two goals in the game had looked a little lucky. And luck without hard work would simply be cheating.
“Lucky, eh? Two goals. Really?” he said, staring down the reporter.
“You do have to drive to the net, right?” he then asked.
The reporter looked back at Ruutu, but didn’t respond.
“Is that not true?” Ruutu asked again.
“Right,” said the reporter.
“That’s what I thought. Also, maybe we were unlucky in the other scoring chances we had. If you never shoot the puck, you’ll never score,” Ruutu said, channeling another hockey wisdom, put into words by the Great One.
Wayne Gretzky is quoted as having said that “you’ll miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.”
Maybe that’s why Gretzky was on Ruutu’s mind right after the puck went in, and beat Jaroslav Halak, even if he hadn’t even taken a shot.
“Funny, but the first thing I thought of was the old Gretzky quote of how he wanted to end his career in a goal that went in off Esa Tikkanen’s butt,” said Ruutu who practically ended Slovakia’s tournament with a goal that went in off his butt.
One guy’s hard work is another guy’s bad luck. In the long run, though, the bounces probably even out. See, the puck bounces a lot in hockey.
At the end of the day, those old clichés are used so often because they’re true. Good things happen when you throw the puck at the net. Good things happen when you drive the net. 100% of the shots that you don’t take don’t go in. Sure, the bounces have gone Finland’s way, but they were also the product of good, hard work and smart hockey plays.
Finland will be back in action on Thursday against Norway, who is one of the surprise national teams of this tournament. They’re actually seeded higher than the United States heading into the elimination round.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.