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Quick shots

May 2012
"I must have been a terrible goalie, with all those goals I let in."

-- Vladislav Tretiak after highlights from the 1972 Summit Series were shown at IIHF's Hall of Fame ceremony


My name is Puckarinen, and this is my blog. Contact: risto at ristopakarinen dot com.

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Fasth's road to the NHL

Feb 16, 2013 by RistoP | | NHL | Send to a buddy

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.

"He was a good goalie when he came to Stockholm, but he had only played about 40 games in the previous two seasons due to his knee injury, so I suppose other teams didn't want to take a chance with him," AIK goalie coach Stefan Persson told NHL.com. "We had another goalie who had also struggled with injuries, but our GM, Anders Gozzi, just said that we can't be so unlucky that both goalies get injured at the same time."


Another Hardy Åstrom story

Sep 28, 2012 by RistoP | | Legends | Send to a buddy

There seems to be at least two Hardy Astroms. There’s the clog-wearing Swedish chef who can’t catch a beach ball, introduced to the world and kept alive by Don Cherry who’s been doing his Hardy material for decades.

Have you heard the one in which Cherry pulled his goalie in the final minutes of a game to try to get a goal with six skaters on the ice and when Åstrom, the backup, saw the starting goalie racing towards the bench he grabbed his equipment, hopped the boards and raced to the crease - the story goes - to make a goalie change on the fly.

“Funny,” says Åstrom, “but not true.”

Ready for anything. Even beach balls.

IIHF.com: Elitserien opens doors to NHLers

Sep 21, 2012 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

STOCKHOLM – The Swedish Competition Authority gave today an interim decision on the Swedish Elitserien’s decision to not sign NHL players currently locked out, forcing the league to leave it to each club to decide whether they want to sign players or not.

“The league’s action can be likened to a cartel. The clubs' mutual decision to boycott certain players is not allowed according to the competition laws,” Per Karlsson, the SCA’s Head of Legal Department, said in a press release.

“Each club must be able to take independent decisions on their investments,” he added.


IIHF.com: Helsinki derby out of control

Sep 12, 2012 by RistoP | | SM-liiga | Send to a buddy

HELSINKI – Ten days ago, in a Helsinki derby between HIFK and Jokerit, in the last seconds of Jokerit’s power play, Jokerit’s Semir Ben-Amor checked HIFK’s Ville Peltonen from behind, and when Peltonen was scrambling to get up, launched into an attack, hitting Peltonen several times. Peltonen suffered a concussion.

It was the second game of a back-to-back pre-season series that was filled with fights between these two teams. Just two minutes into the first period, HIFK’s Ilari Melart attacked Jokerit’s Jarkko Ruutu. Five minutes later, Ben-Amor jumped Peltonen, and several other fights broke out simultaneously.

Out. of. control.

IIHF.com: Rock of Rögle

Sep 11, 2012 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

STOCKHOLM – For as long as hockey has been played, the role of the goalkeeper has been considered if not the most important one in the game, then, well, it’s always been considered key position. Managers want to find a good goalie, a good defenseman and a great center when they start building successful teams.

“Without the goaltender, you don't have diddly,” Art Berglund, former USA Hockey director, and an IIHF Hall of Famer has said.

The Rock.

IIHF.com: An experienced rookie

Aug 31, 2012 by RistoP | | SM-liiga | Send to a buddy

KUOPIO, Finland – Every fall, in every league, there are different media polls of which of the coaches will get fired first. This season, KalPa Kuopio beat the media by canning their head coach, Tuomas Tuokkola, two weeks before the regular season opener.

Last season, Tuokkola, 32, led the Kuopio team to the top of the regular season standings, but in the playoffs, the team got ousted in the first round, despite having a 3-0 lead against the Espoo Blues. With the Game 7 on home ice, no less.

Maybe that sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of the management, and going 0-2-2 in their first four pre-season games didn’t help the situation. On Tuesday, KalPa CEO Kimmo Kapanen announced that Tuokkola had been dismissed, and on Wednesday, his successor was introduced to the media.

Laukkanen (left), Puckarinen (right).

Suddenly Sudden

Jun 28, 2012 by RistoP | | NHL | Send to a buddy

I’ve never been a card collector, because I don’t have the mental capacity, the patience, or the stamina for that, but I do own two hockey cards. They’re currently inside the same plastic frame, backs against each other, one of them looking out my office window, the other staring at the wall.

The players on the cards are Wayne Gretzky and Mats Sundin.

He's there.


Vladimir Krutov (1960-2012)

Jun 11, 2012 by RistoP | | Legends | Send to a buddy

In 1979, Finland hosted the hockey world junior championship, and for the first time ever - which is something of an overstatement as the world juniors were officially played just for the fourth time - there was some glimmer of hope for the Finnish team.

Just a year earlier, the Finnish under-18 team had shocked the hockey world - well, at least in Finland and the Soviet Union - when they won the European Championship on home ice. My best friend’s father had managed to get tickets from a grocer store or a bank so I was there to see one Jari Pekka Kurri score the game winning goal on second overtime.

Two years later, I got tickets from a grocery store or a bank myself, and I made the same trek from a Helsinki suburb to that same main downtown rink, now to see the World Junior Championship, the under-20 tournament.

Vladimir Krutov, 52, died on May 6, 2012, of internal bleeding, and liver failure.

Tarasov's tough love

Jun 05, 2012 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

Hockey’s pretty much a year-round sport these days. Finnish teams, for example, play their first exhibition games already in early August when the rest of the world is still at their barbecues. Today, the players seem to be in shape all the time, August or April, they’re no slackers, and the Mario Lemieux kind of training – “not ordering the fries with my sandwich” - has gone the way of the Bobby Hull toupee.

I’m with Mario, always have been, but still, summer always feels like a new chance to get in shape. I don’t seem to succeed, but every summer, I still try. I even do some of the old conditioning drills back from when I still could. And when nobody’s watching, I try to run up a tree. I always have to get at least three steps up the trunk to feel good about myself.


The times they have a-changed

Jun 04, 2012 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

I remember driving past my Dad’s appliance store in the 1970s and seeing crowds of people gathered outside, watching the World Championship games on one of the sets Dad had left on for that purpose. It’s pretty cold in Finland in the spring, and back in the 1970s, the World Championship was played in early April. But what’s a couple of hours outside when you can spend it with your buddies or future-buddies watching hockey?

It used to be that Finnish kids grew up dreaming about playing for their country, and maybe winning medals at the World Championships and the Olympics. I still don’t know when it changed. Now we all know - and accept the fact - that winning the Stanley Cup is everybody’s dream.

Go [team]!

IIHF.com: Ilya the captain

May 26, 2012 by RistoP | | NHL | Send to a buddy

One from the archives, from the 2010 Worlds in Germany.

COLOGNE – He scored the game winner in the 2008 World Championship final in Quebec City, and in 2009, when Russia defended their title, he averaged most ice time on the team. Sounds like a player who’s got what it takes, right? The ability to deliver in a crunch situation and the willingness to work hard, and lead by example. Also, he seems to have earned the coach’s trust.

So when Alexei Morozov couldn’t make the World Championship due to an injury, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to see coach Vyacheslav Bykov name Ilya Kovalchuk the team captain.

It wasn’t one to his teammates.

Ilya 2010.

Satan Sr.

May 20, 2012 by RistoP | | Slovak Extraliga | Send to a buddy

Miroslav Satan has proved that he’s still a worldclass player, scoring two in Slovakia’s semi-final win over the Czech Republic. Having already secured a medal in Helsinki, Miroslav Satan is now the only Slovak player with four World Championship medals.

But if his father had had his way, Miro would have become a soccer player instead.

Emil Satan.

Older, not visor

May 15, 2012 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

Every time I interview the players in the mixed zone, I am reminded of how big the boys are. They, even Zdeno Chara, look tiny from the pressbox, especially since our seats are almost as high as you can get in the Hartwall Areena. I am easily fooled, I suppose.

And then I go to ice level, and see how fast today’s game is, and I shake my head at the thought of people playing hockey helmetless just a couple of decades ago. (Craig MacTavish, the last player to play in the NHL without a helmet, retired in 1997).


Life of Ryan

May 14, 2012 by RistoP | | North America | Send to a buddy

HELSINKI – One of them is an NHL star, the other has spent the last two seasons in Europe. One of them is 188 centimetres and almost 100 kilos, the other is 175 centimeters and 80 kilos. One of them is Bobby Ryan, and the other is Ryan, too. Ryan Lasch.

To paraphrase Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, they were born to be players and they were meant to be here. But their routes here have been very different.

However, it’s not the first time Bobby and Ryan play together. They played youth hockey together in California.

One Ryan.


May 01, 2012 by RistoP | | Finland | Send to a buddy

HELSINKI – Of all the skills that Mikael Granlund has, and of all the gifts he has, the ability to be in the moment, to live in the now, may just be his biggest, and the most important one.

That’s why he was able to hone his stickhandling skills for hours on end as a kid. That’s what’s helped him keep his feet on the ground during the media frenzy around him the last few years, and that’s why it’s easy to believe him when he says that he hasn’t thought about playing in front of his home fans at the World Championship in May.

After all, Mikael Granlund says that when he’s in the zone, he doesn’t even remember his last shift, and doesn’t hear what the crowd’s yelling, or what the other players are saying to him on the ice.

In the zone.

What would Hulk Hogan do?

Apr 10, 2012 by RistoP | | General | Send to a buddy

Last week, when I saw the YouTube video of Scott Hartnell making his then-famous now-forgotten - nothing personal, Scottie, that’s just the way things go these days - Hulk Hogan impersonation, I thought of a friend of mine who did the same thing 20 years ago.

Only, he wasn’t doing it in front of 15 000 people, or to a guy dressed up as Hulk Hogan. He did it in an ice cold hockey rink 50 kilometers west of Helsinki, Finland, in front of 200 people, and purely out of frustration and to get back at every single one of those 150 people in the stands.

The Team.

Blood, sweat and fears

Mar 27, 2012 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

“You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying in sweat.”
– “Lydia Grant”, dance instructor in “Fame”
Yes, I’m old enough to not only admit to remembering “Fame”, the 1980s hit TV series, but also having liked the show. Now, rushing home on Sunday afternoons so I could watch Danny and Bruno and Leroy, and of course Valerie, Coco and Lori work on their art, and get their lives straight, wasn’t something I told my teammates, but then again, since nobody talked about it, maybe I wasn’t the only fan of the show. All I know, “Fame” was never discussed in the locker room.

I’ve quoted “Lydia Grant’s” - played by Debbie Allen - words many times over the years, sometimes jokingly, but most often seriously, because it’s true. Fame does cost, and the price is sweat.


IIHF.com: Long way to the top

Feb 25, 2012 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

Every year, stars are born. Many of them against some long odds.

STOCKHOLM – A few years ago, a 24-year-old goaltender named Jonas Gustavsson broke the Elitserien shutout record in his first full season, having played mostly in Swedish second and third divisions before then. He finished the season with a bronze medal around his neck as he returned from the 2009 IIHF World Championship in Berne, Switzerland, and then signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent.

He wasn't the first great goaltender to emerge from out of nowhere, and he likely won't be the last. Just last Sunday, after the final game of the Oddset Hockey Games between Finland and Sweden in Stockholm, the teams stood on the blueline waiting for the best players of both teams to get their prizes at center ice. As it happened, both stars chosen were goaltenders.


One moment in time

Nov 23, 2011 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

Sidney Crosby’s return to NHL action after his ten-month long sick leave due to a concussion was one of those larger-than-life moments. Especially with the way he capped his comeback with a four-point performance. It was one of those highly anticipated games that forced European TV networks to quickly change the schedule, and pick up the Penguins-Islanders games instead of whatever else they had had in mind. (Sorry about that all you local Finnish/Swedish boys).

It may not have been a true once-in-a-lifetime moment, but it sure was a memorable event. There are only so many truly unforgettable moments anyway, and what makes those few truly great is the fact that they are just that: moments.

Paul Henderson’s goal. Crosby’s Olympic game-winner. Kovalchuk’s wrist shot at the Worlds in Quebec. Teemu Selänne hoisting the Cup. Tommy Salo’s goof up at the Salt Lake City Olympics.


Son of a goon

Oct 17, 2011 by RistoP | | General | Send to a buddy

A couple of weeks ago, I found the local hockey club’s new magazine in our mailbox. Our Sollentuna Hockey is a tiny club, with a men’s team in the fourth highest division in Sweden, but it’s also one that is proud to have Mats Sundin as an alumnus. For the first issue they had even got an interview with the man himself.

That, naturally, pulled me in, and as I read the story at the breakfast table, I mumbled that I probably should go watch their games and support the local club. And that maybe Son would like to tag along.

“No, no, I’m not interested in such a violent sport,” said Son from across the table without looking up from his comic book.

I gotta feeling.

IIHF.com: Musical chairs in Finland

Nov 26, 2010 by RistoP | | SM-liiga | Send to a buddy

Five of the 14 SM-liiga teams have made a coaching change

HELSINKI – Hannu Aravirta is back behind the bench. The former Team Finland head coach was hired as new head coach of Kärpät Oulu on November 22, after the club board had decided to relieve Mikko Haapakoski from his duties.

Kärpät is currently 11th in the standings, four points from tenth place, which still qualifies for post-season. Haapakoski had been promoted to head coach last season, when the club fired Matti Alatalo.

Oops, you lost.

IIHF.com: Transition to Europe not easy

Nov 19, 2010 by RistoP | | Europe | Send to a buddy

Some international men of mystery are too much of a mystery

STOCKHOLM – Every year, dozens and dozens of players travel across the Atlantic to pursue a hockey career on the other side, and every year, many of them realize halfway through the season that things haven’t gone as planned.

Austin Danger Powers

18 'Til I Die

Nov 11, 2010 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

Team Finland has retired Raimo Helminen's number 14 and tonight the banner was raised next to Jari Kurri's 17, the first retired number in Team FInland's history.

Raimo Helminen holds the world record in national team games played, with 331.

But is he Bryan Adams's secret twin? You tell me:

I'm confused.

Here's Bryan's tribute to "Raipe":

You're my density

Oct 14, 2010 by RistoP | | Hockey | Send to a buddy

”I quit.”

I’ve told my friends that past months just that. I quit hockey. I just don’t have the energy or the commitment anymore. Hockey just doesn’t seem to do it for me like it used to.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to get into the hockey business, get into the inside ring of things. I remember the actual moment that I set my sight on just that. My junior team had come home from a road trip on the West Coast of Finland in the middle of the night. I hadn’t played particularly well or much. I was just about to grab the door on my way into our arena to dump my hockey trunk there when a voice inside me said: “Time to move to the other side.”

That was twenty years ago.

My first season.


Angry Swedes

Oct 13, 2010 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

... and other notes:

  • The Elitserien CEO Peter Gudmudsson is furious about media reports that the Los Angeles Kings want to loan defenceman Johan Fransson to SKA Petersburg in the KHL. The Swede didn’t manage to crack the NHL lineup, and instead of reporting to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, it was reportedly arranged that he will be loaned to Russia. The problem is, Fransson signed a five-year contract with Luleå in the Swedish Elitserien. According to Gudmundsson, if the player is sent back to Europe, his European contract should be honoured.

  • Former SM-liiga MVP and a Team Finland regular, Timo Pärssinen, has bounced back from the injury problems that have plagued him the last two, three years. Injury-free, the feisty forward leads the Elitserien in scoring with five goals and 10 points in nine games. There are four Finns in the Top 10 in league scoring: Skellefteå AIK’s Mikko Lehtonen has 6+3=9 points, Jukka Voutilainen 3+6=9, and veteran defenseman Janne Niinimaa 1+8=9 points, in nine games.

  • Another Finn making a big comeback is Linköping’s goaltender Fredrik Norrena, who leads the league in all goaltending categories: save percentage (94.12), goals against (1.36), and shutouts (2).

  • IIHF.com: Good start key to success

    Oct 13, 2010 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

    Turning things around mid-season is a difficult task

    STOCKHOLM – A little less than six months ago, on April 24, HV71 players skated around the Hovet Arena ice with the modern-day Swedish classic, the golden helmets, on their heads. They had just beaten Djurgården Stockholm in Game 6 of the Elitserien final with Teemu Laine’s OT goal just four minutes into the extra frame.

    Six months ago, DIF fans were hoping to end a nine-year long wait for a title.

    NHL Premiere

    Oct 09, 2010 by RistoP | | NHL | Send to a buddy

    IIHF.com: Ilves rebooting

    Oct 02, 2010 by RistoP | | SM-liiga | Send to a buddy

    For Finland’s winningest club, the only way is up

    TAMPERE, Finland – The people of Tampere like to think of their city as the cradle of Finnish hockey, for a good reason. The first game was played there, the first artificial ice was built there, and the first indoor arena was built in Tampere in 1965, in time for the World Championship it hosted that year.

    Rask2, not 2-ka.

    IIHF.com: AIK’s return to Elitserien

    Sep 24, 2010 by RistoP | | Elitserien | Send to a buddy

    Stockholm team now has to prove that they belong

    STOCKHOLM – The prodigal son is back in the Elitserien. He tried to conquer the world, wasted all his money, was banished from the inner circles of Swedish hockey, but now he’s back. And he’s welcome by all, even his fiercest archrival.

    AIK, the big, bad AIK, is back in Elitserien.

    The ghosts of the past may come back to haunt AIK

    IIHF.com: Happy Granlund

    Sep 16, 2010 by RistoP | | SM-liiga | Send to a buddy

    HELSINKI – With the exception of Canada, most hockey nations are continually worried about their ability to develop new talent. And then, with regular intervals, along comes a kid that brings hope to everybody. In Finland, at least for now, Mikael Granlund seems to be The One, and for good reason.

    No Micke Mouse