The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/09/12 at 03:21 PM ET
Red Wings prospect Tomas Tatar admitted that he’d never played hockey in a cave before coming to Helsinki to take part in the World Championships, where it turns out that Hartwall Arena’s practice facility out-does any other “man cave” in the world.
Per IIHF.com’s Andrew Podnieks:
“The Rock” can mean many things to many people. In Canada, it’s a friendly term for St. John’s, Newfoundland. For Hollywood, it refers to Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, the wrestler-cum-actor (or something). There’s the Rock of Gibraltar and there’s a solid defenceman (“he’s a rock back there”) and to any woman of material ambitions the most important part of marriage is getting a “nice rock” for her finger. There’s rock ‘n’ roll and rock-a-bye baby and various other uses of the word.
The practice arena in Helsinki is part of Hartwall Arena. Sort of. That is, it’s all part of the same building. Sort of. In other words, you can go from the main arena to the secondary one without having to go outside. Sort of.
The practice rink is, in fact, two stories underground. It is carved out of a rock, and it is not easy to find. You can enter through a single door on the outside, carved out of this small urban mountain range, or you can walk to the back end of the main arena and wend your way downstairs circuitously from there.
As you descend, past the stick-painting area (another curious feature of the World Championship), to get to the rink, you smell the cold, musty rock, and when you get to the rink itself, you are surrounded by rock painted white to give the area that hockey feeling.
The ceiling is as low as you can possibly imagine for a hockey rink. It feels as though Shaq could jump up and touch the lights, but perhaps it’s a bit higher than that. The Plexiglas is pock-marked with puck marks like a Gerry Cheevers mask. Yet even down here, there is the Skoda logo at centre ice and ads along all of the boards. Sponsorship knows no depths to which it cannot plunge.
The cold shoots through your bones, and you feel like you’re in a big cave. You can imagine Neanderthal man finding a place like this and playing hockey with a few T Rex fibulas for sticks and guano for a puck.
I was there when teams weren’t practising, so it was also darker than usual, but it had a subterranean charm that is such a contrast to the above-ground modernism of Hartwall itself. They are so different they can’t possibly be connected – but they are. Sort of.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.