When I heard – or most likely read – somebody talk about the “five-hole” for the first time, I had no idea what it meant. I knew it was a hockey term, and I did know it was the goalie’s weak spot, but since the five-hole isn’t called “five-hole” in Finnish, I had to figure it out on my own.
And to me, the goalie’s weak spot number five was not between his legs, but instead, next to the post on the [left-catching] goalie’s glove side.
Not top shelf, and not under the glove, either, either, but next to the post, just stroking it on the way in. Top shelf was number 4, a low shot to the glove-side number 6. I had those numbers memorized, because I had seen a photo in a book, and the caption under it said that “scientific research has revealed goaltenders’ weak spots.” It even says, “hard shots to spot number five are difficult to stop even if the goalie has a quick glove hand.”
In 1977, after Boris Kulagin coached the Soviet Union to a World Championship silver medal for the second year in a row, he was relieved of his duties as the bench boss, and a new boss was called in. Viktor Tikhonov, a Moscow native, and a former Moscow Dynamo defenseman, rode back into his home town to take over the Red Army team, and the national team, which was practically the same thing.
By then, Kharlamov was 29, and one of the veteran players on the team. He was a two-time Olympic champion, and a six-time World Champion, and a national hero. None of that mattered to Tikhonov, already famous for his discipline and tough love towards his players.
Or, at least, tough something.
STOCKHOLM – Apparently there were a handful Swedes who had full confidence in their team before Sunday’s final. One of them was Carl Gustav XVI. The real king of Sweden.
“I was pretty calm,” His Majesty told the players when the newly-crowned world champions paid a visit at the Royal Palace in central Stockholm just 12 hours after they had beat Switzerland 5-1 in the final.
As the team presented the royal family with an autographed sweater, the players probably already heard the Poodles play their official tournament song – “En för alla för en”, or “one for all for one” – in the background because meanwhile, thousands and thousands of people gathered in Kungsträdgården, a recreational park that can be seen from the castle.
Kungsträdgården, “King’s garden” has in recent years become the new place for such events. Back in 2006, when Sweden won both the Olympic gold and the World Championship, the Olympic team had their parade end at Medborgarplatsen, a square on the south side of town, and the World Champions in Kungsträdgården.
Anaheim Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth had a lot of physical work to do to overcome a knee injury while playing in Sweden.
He also had some mental changes to make.
Fasth told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter he once threw his goalie stick 17 rows into the crowd. When his former AIK goalie coach Stefan Persson tells the story, he stops at row 7 — but you get the picture.
When goalie Viktor Fasth signed a two-year contract with Stockholm AIK in 2010, it was barely news in Sweden. The biggest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had a three-line blurb about it, and Aftonbladet, the biggest daily, pulled the general manager’s comments off AIK’s website.
No wonder. AIK played in the second- and third-tier leagues for years and had just then, in 2010, earned promotion to the Swedish Elite League. Fasth, too, spent his career in the second- and third-tier leagues, and had just signed his first SEL contract at 27.
Seemed like a good day to dust off this profile on Jarmo Kekäläinen, the Columbus Blue Jackets new GM, who at the time of the story was the St. Louis Blues’ assistant GM.
Click below for the story. Here’s a pdf version.
Finland in November is a dark place as it is, but in 1991, it was darker than ever. The housing bubble had burst, several banks went bankrupt, and the unemployment rate shot from 3.5 percent in 1990 to 12 percent by the end of 1992.
And there he was, a 22-year-old, baby-faced part-time kindergarten teacher who had scored an incredible 36 goals in 35 games in the Finnish second-tier league, to follow up on his 43 goals in 33 games in major junior the year before. His club, Jokerit, had been on the brink of bankruptcy for years and was demoted to the second-tier league. In his four years with the team, Jokerit not only got promoted back to the elite league, they won the Finnish championship in 1992.
He was the new guy in class, or maybe I was the new guy in his class, since our new, third-grade class, was a result of merging two second-grade classes, but I’d only known him for a few weeks when he told me he’d take up hockey.
“I’m going to join a team,” he said.
He’d join a real team, that is. Somehow he knew that the local club was looking for new players. Maybe he’d heard his brother say it, maybe some of the club’s reps had been at our school, but I just remember that one afternoon he told me he was going, and I like to think he asked me if I, too, wanted to go.
VALLENTUNA, Sweden – One of the most exciting things with joining a hockey team is getting the real hockey equipment. Or, at least a real hockey jersey, like all the girls in Vallentuna, a municipality 35 kilometres north of Stockholm, when the local SDE Hockey kicked off their Girls’ Hockey Day.
Maria Stolpe walked around the locker room with a big, blue Ikea bag full of practice sweaters. The girls attending the hockey school all got to pick one. There were two choices: a green jersey, or a pink one.
All six girls picked a pink one.
I saw this photo (below) on Twitter, and sent a link to a buddy who then reminded me of a blog entry I wrote about Shanahan six years ago for the nhl.com. So I went and dug it up. Here it is:
Shanahan The Man
As you’ve probably already seen, Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan was named the inaugural winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award this week.
Brendan Shanahan truly is a leader. He stands out from the crowd. He’s different. He’s smart, he’s a great athlete, he’s rich, he’s famous, he’s got it all. When he gives interviews, he actually answers the questions he’s asked. He looks the interviewer in the eye and delivers his thoughts in a careful manner. He’s tall, he’s dark and, yes, he’s handsome.