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Puckarinen Hits A Post

Nordic Fight Club

Fighting’s been a hot topic in many hockey markets recently. The KHL has had its share of it with the Vityaz team creating havoc on and off the ice, and not for the first time - and dare I predict - not for the last. The Wikipedia tells me that Vityaz “is a Russian term for a valiant warrior or knight [and] usually given to a man who owns a horse and proves himself in battle”. Now the KHL is looking to take the horses away from some of the Vityaz players, making them take a walk from the league.

In the Finnish SM-liiga, Helsinki IFK and Lahti Pelicans broke the league record in penalty minutes in a game when fights broke out in three separate occasions within eight seconds (of time on the game clock), including 16 players. The league disciplinary committee handed out suspensions to 14 players and both head coaches, Petri Matikainen (HIFK) and Kai Suikkanen (Pelicans).

Between the actual incident and the suspensions, the hockey fight debate was already in full swing.

I’m sure you already know how that always goes, but to recap this instance. The league proudly noted the new penalty minute record on their website before the CEO regretting the incident that “caused unnecessary badwill” and the president of the federation condemning line brawls.

Then former hockey greats were trotted out to tell everybody that fights were a part of the game and that others, people outside the game, should just shut up since they don’t understand the code anyway.

Staged, or “non-spontaneous” fights as the Finnish league calls them, plagued the league a few years ago, but have in the last three years been far apart. Since 2008-09, when the disciplinarian was given the mandate to hand out heavier suspensions for staged fights, eight players have been suspended.

This time, too, the focus was on the fight that got started straight off a faceoff. Team Finland head coach Jukka Jalonen also noted in a talk show appearance that staged fights should be banned.

“But sometimes emotions run high, and you have to defend your honor, or your teammate, and those fights should be allowed,” he then added.

Neither Finland nor Sweden has a deep-rooted goon culture which may be why that same week, according to a newspaper report, the Swedish Elitserien was considering dropping the automatic match penalty for fighting, and instead, giving the fighters just a five minute major.

What makes all this surprising is the fact that there is little fighting in Sweden - only seven fights this year according to Aftonbladet - and that one of the advocates of the change that would surely increase fighting seems to be the GM of Modo.

“Our Ole-Kristian Tollefsen got a match penalty for defending himself, and he got punched once or twice. Of course we don’t want promote fighting but after my years in North America, I know that the game stays cleaner if you have to stand up for your actions on the ice,” he said.

I think we may be doomed. The GM of Modo is Markus Näslund.

Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer. He wrote this in Sollentuna, Sweden, the birthplace of Yngwie Malmsteen, a guitar hero whose catalogue includes the album Fire and Ice. You can follow him on Twitter as Puckarinen.

Filed in: | Puckarinen Hits A Post | Permalink
  Tags: elitserien, fights, jukka+jalonen, markus+näslund, sm-liiga, vityaz


SYF's avatar

Vityaz coach fighting the fans.

And, Wings fans, check out Vityaz’s uniforms.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 12/19/11 at 11:55 PM ET

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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.

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