I still have the J. Finnemore book on Robin Hood on my bookshelf. It’s a book I must have read a dozen times when I was around 12. I read the book, ran outside to play Robin Hood, then ran back in to read the book all over again, bracing myself for the emotional ending – spoiler alert – in which Little John finds Robin at a monastery, betrayed by the prioress, who lets out too much blood and lets Robin bleed to death.
John picks him up and carries him to the window so that Robin can shoot one last arrow to mark where he is to be buried.
That is a beautiful, beautiful ending to a book. Try to visualize the last scene with human beings, though, and not with a bear holding a fox (thanks Disney).
But I digress.
In Hovin, an Oslo, Norway neighborhood, there’s a small pond that freezes in the winter, which makes it perfect for kids who want to skate. It sits inside a pocket of red brick houses, a stone’s throw from Valle Hovin, a speed skating arena, and Vallhall, an indoor soccer arena.
You can see the pond from the houses on the hill, and if you’re lucky, some kids will be playing. And just like kids everywhere, half their game takes place on the ice, the other half in their heads. Nobody’s ever just himself, because everybody’s pretending to be someone famous.
When Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers forward playing in his fifth season in the National Hockey League, was younger, his heroes were Peter Forsberg, the Swedish Hockey Hall of Famer, and his Colorado Avalanche teammates, Canadians Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Posters of those three were plastered on the walls of his room.
On that same wall, now his brother’s room, there’s a New York Rangers sweater number 36, with “Zuccarello” on the back.
How times have changed.
Yesterday, as I was at a hockey store, getting some new skates for Daughter, it occurred to me that outside our house, there are two places where I’m fully comfortable and at ease. One of them is a car and the other a hockey rink. Any car and any hockey rink in the world.
One of my earliest memories involves a drive to a hockey rink in Helsinki. My Dad had a game and for some strange reason I got to tag along. In the mental image in my head, it’s the middle of the winter, there’s a lot of snow, we park our car far from the rink, I walk into a wood-paneled dressing room – and smell the stench of hockey gloves for the first time.
And, oddly enough, even the smell is a pleasant memory.
Naturally, I have no way of verifying any of that, except that it probably was the middle of the winter because back then, the hockey season was much shorter and that the gloves probably did stink because they always stank back then.
Since I was a writer, it was easy for me to put aside some time to solve the mystery. I called it “research” to silence my guilty conscience, which wasn’t that guilty to begin with. After all, I was “between projects”, the creative term for being unemployed.
Now, when I said that he was always at the mall during Christmas, I was using the phrase in a casual way. I obviously meant that he was there every time I was therebut surely he couldn’t have always been there. It was a shopping mall, he couldn’t live there.
Or could he?
Sollentuna is a 15-minute commuter train ride from downtown Stockholm, Sweden, with a population of about 70,000. We had everything: fancy restaurants, middle-of-the-road restaurants, pubs, a mall, public swimming pool, gyms, grocery stores, teams in all sports divisions, trains and buses to – and with the arrival of the old man, a celebrity.
A celebrity that didn’t seem to like publicity, as it was. The next time I saw him was a year later when he set up his table and chairs in the middle of our mall and traded stories with people until Christmas Eve. Then he disappeared – only to return a year later.
In recent years, Finland has become the world’s model society in many categories and nobody’s as surprised as Finns themselves! Want to celebrate the eastern European country like a native? Here’s how.
Do not call Finland an “eastern European country.” Yes, it is the eastern-most country in the EU, but it took decades for Finns to convince themselves they were a part of the West. However, to get a feel for that 1970s eastern European flavor, stop by U.Kaleva, a bar named after Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, who was the president of Finland between 1956 and 1981.
“Luffe, kom hit,” Wife shouted, and a blonde dog that looked like a golden retriever came running back to her, his ears pulled back by the wind and his mouth open as if in a huge smile.
Wife patted the dog and looked at me.
“Had somebody told me a year ago that i’d be walking here with you and a dog, I wouldn’t have believed him,” she said.
“Walking here with you, maybe. But not the dog,” she added after a pause.
And yet, there we were, walking around the neighborhood, Wife and I – and a dog.
On a recent Friday night, Risto Pakarinen was sitting on a half-empty 3 train going uptown, his legs stretched out and his black-and-yellow hoodie unzipped. He was on his way back to Harlem where he and his friend, Ari Lepisto, a fellow Finn, were spending the night.
They were in town to check a few items off Lepisto’s bucket list, heavily slanted towards sports events. It wasn’t the first time the duo had done it. A few years ago, when Lepisto wanted to cross out “watching a Premier League football game” off the list, Pakarinen joined him on the trip to Craven Cottage in London to see Fulham take on West Bromwich.
About seven years ago, Mats Grauers, then newly-elected chairman of the Frölunda Indians, had to secure a loan of SEK 20 million from the City of Gothenburg to solve the hockey club’s cashflow problems. The team that had won the Swedish title five years earlier had taken a nosedive, and as always, turning things around took time.
Between 2010 and 2013, Frölunda accumulated losses totalling almost seven million euros, and on the ice, things weren’t much better. They missed the playoffs once and were ousted in the first round twice.
In 2016, Frölunda won the Swedish championship and the Champions Hockey League title and repeated the CHL feat in 2017. The secret? Building the team from ground up with a clear vision … and patience.