Sep 11, '14 : Unbreakable

Filed under: Hockey

When Saku Koivu, 39, announced his retirement from hockey on Wednesday, with a statement from the NHLPA, it truly marked the end of an era.

He’s the boy wonder of the late 1980s and early 1990s who turned into Team Finland’s leader and captain of the early 21st century, only to take a step back in the last few years of his career into the role of an elderly statesman.

Back in 1995.

» Continued

May 02, '14 : Oh yes, Oulu

Filed under: Hockey

OULU, Finland – Sometimes the stars are aligned just perfectly, and the great stories we all love in sports get the fairy tale ending we yearn for. That’s what happened in Oulu when Game Seven of the Finnish final went into overtime.

That’s the dream kids dream, and depending on where they live on this planet, it’s their local team that scores the winning goal. These days even kids in Finland, Sweden, and Germany may dream about getting the Stanley Cup clinching goal for a team in Southern Florida, but for most kids, the first heroes are always the ones that are the closest.

The Magic Man, and the other Magic Man

» Continued

Feb 21, '14 : The diaries of a loser

Filed under: Hockey

And so it was over. I sat in the armchair, and watched the Swedes pile up into a huge blue and yellow ... painful lump of yuck!

I knew all the stories of the Swedes' golden generation, how Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and Daniel Alfredsson "never got to win anything together in a big tournament."

I've always like Mats Sundin, and I was probably the only person in the stands during the World Championships final in 1997 to cheer for the Swedes over Canada. (Canada won). I think Peter Forsberg is an amazing player, and I even said before the tournament that Henrik Lundqvist is the goalie that can lead Sweden to Olympic gold.

I knew that. And, in a way, I wanted their stories to get the fairytale ending.

Sundin and Forsberg

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Ask a Finn about the “recent rise of great Finnish goaltenders” and he or she will be baffled.

The younger generation doesn’t understand the question because for them, Finland’s always produced great NHLers, such as Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backström, Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask. Older fans think back to previous generations – Urpo Ylönen, Jarmo Myllys*, Kari Takko**, Markus Mattsson***, Jorma Valtonen, Hannu Kamppuri – and wonder what the fuss is about.

He shoots … he scores?

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Here's an excerpt from This is Russia: Life in the KHL - Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles, Bernd Brückler's memoir of his three seasons in the KHL.

You can find the book on Amazon: English / German.

This excerpt is from the chapter called "Medicine Men".

This is more than sixteen pills.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Here's a collection of excerpts of This is Russia: Life in the KHL - doctors, bazas, and millions of air miles:

The Hockey News: Money, and Brucks's accident
ESPN: Money
ESPN: Baza
This blog: Lokomotiv
This blog: Tarasenko
This blog: Medicine Men (Or why you need to take 16 pills a day)

Hey, governor!

Photo: Brucks meets the governor.

Jan 09, '14 : Tarasenko

Filed under: Hockey

Here's another excerpt from "This is Russia", Bernd Brückler's KHL memoir I co-authored. This is from the chapter in which he talks about the characters he played with and against in the KHL: Vladimir Tarasenko, an Olympian in about a month: "Vladimir may be the best player I’ve ever played with," says Brucks.

Just like Misha in Nizhny, Vladimir “Vova” Tarasenko is a homegrown star in Novosibirsk, and just like in Misha’s case, Vladimir’s father Andrei had been a national team player.

Vladimir grew up in Novosibirsk, and at 16 he played in the Superleague. Of course, “Vova” learned the game from his dad, who had been a great forward. Andrei was also our coach — he was the head coach first, but then switched places with former Toronto Maple Leafs player Dmitri Yushkevich and became assistant coach.

The St. Louis Blues had drafted Vlamidir in the first round in 2010, but he had stayed in the KHL for another year because Andrei thought it was best for Vladimir’s development. Vladimir wanted to stay so that he could play for his dad, the new head coach of Sibir.

Tarasenko.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Here's an excerpt from This is Russia: Life in the KHL - Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles, Bernd Brückler's memoir of his three seasons in the Kontinentalnaya Hokkeynaya Liga (KHL), founded and financed by Russian oligarchs.

In 2011, "Brucks" signed with Sibir Novosibirsk, and succeeded Team Sweden goaltender Stefan Liv as the team's goaltender. A few months later, the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl perished in a plane crash as the team was on their way to their first regular season game of the season. Below is Brucks's story from the inside.

This is Brucks in a Torpedo Nizny Novgorod sweater.

» Continued

Nov 14, '13 : A bunch of cool amateurs

Filed under: Hockey

These days when I’m bored and have nothing to do, I go on Facebook or read my Twitter feed - seems to me I’m bored way too much - but in another time when phones had cords and rotary dials, and the Love Boat was still roaming the seven seas, my options were to go outside and play hockey or stay at home and read a book.

Now, fortunately, Dad got bored even more than I did, and when he had nothing to do, we went for a drive.

“Wanna go for a drive?” he’d ask Mom and me, and if Mom said yes, we’d drive to friends, but if she didn’t, we almost always drove to a hockey rink. Maybe there was a game, maybe just a practice, or maybe we’d bump into some friends, and have a Coke and a donut at the cafeteria.

Or, maybe, if we were lucky, we’d see something better.

 salesmen, painters, students, pilot, doctor, cook

» Continued

Oct 28, '13 : First Euro NHL GM

Filed under: Hockey

COLUMBUS – Eight months ago, history was truly made in the NHL. Only, it wasn’t a scoring record, or a new champion, but instead, an off-ice move in which the Columbus Blue Jackets made Jarmo Kekäläinen the first European GM in the league’s history.

At the time, Kekäläinen was in the third year of his five-year contract as the GM of Jokerit Helsinki in the Finnish league, back on home turf after over a decade of traveling around Europe scouting for the Ottawa Senators and the St. Louis Blues.

“My dream has always been to become a GM in the NHL, and I never gave up that dream when I moved back to Finland to become the GM of Jokerit,” Kekäläinen told IIHF.com.

Kekäläinen in Stockholm in 2006. Photo: Susanne Kronholm.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Eight years ago, a young Finnish goalie name Tuukka Rask was excited because he had just been drafted into the NHL by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was only 18 years old, but his career plan was right on schedule. He had won the Finnish junior championship, recording six shutouts in 10 playoff games, and he had played in the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Today, Rask is the Boston Bruins' starting goaltender. His name is on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Bruins' championship team in 2011, and he might well have won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP had the Bruins beaten the Chicago Blackhawks in the Final in June.

And eight years from now? Rask hopes he's still wearing a Bruins sweater. Right after the Stanley Cup Final he said he wanted to play in Boston "forever," and in July he got his wish, "forever" with an asterisk, as he signed an eight-year, $56 million contract.

Tuukka in 2003.

» Continued

Jun 24, '13 : Tarasov's life lessons

Filed under: Hockey

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.”

1, 2, 3...

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Jim Craig and Valeri

» Continued

May 21, '13 : Kings of Sweden

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Weeeeeee are the champions..

» Continued

Feb 16, '13 : Fasth goes mental

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Just ... do … it!

» Continued

Feb 16, '13 : Fasth's road to the NHL

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Viktor.

» Continued

Feb 13, '13 : Kekäläinen

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Jarmo K.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Number 8. (13).

» Continued

Nov 01, '12 : Good one, Dave

Filed under: Hockey

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.

I'm the one with the green helmet, Dave is right behind me.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Let's play hockey.

» Continued

Apr 27, '12 : Blast from the past

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Shanahan.

» Continued

Apr 24, '12 : In the zone

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Carpe diem.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

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.

» Continued

Mar 27, '12 : Blood, sweat and fears

Filed under: Hockey

“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.

Tough.

» Continued

Mar 13, '12 : IIHF.com: Teemu and Saku

Filed under: Hockey

HELSINKI – The stars were almost perfectly aligned on Monday night when the Anaheim Ducks played against the Colorado Avalanche. Teemu Selanne scored his 22nd goal of the season, with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle like so many times before, passing fellow countryman and childhood idol Jari Kurri on the NHL's all-time scoring list to become the highest-scoring Finn in the history of the NHL.

The game was also Saku Koivu’s 1000th regular season game in the NHL, the 274th player in the league history to reach that point.

Between the two of them, Koivu and Selanne have been a big part of the finest moments of Finnish hockey history, both individually, and together. Koivu was an integral part of the historic 1995 World Championship team, Selanne broke records in the NHL, and together they’ve won 1998 Olympic bronze, 1999 World Championship silver, 2004 World Cup silver, 2006 Olympic silver, 2008 World Championship bronze, and 2010 Olympic bronze.

Numero uno.

» Continued

Feb 24, '12 : No room for error

Filed under: Hockey

Pressure – pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure - that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

– Queen, “Under pressure”
The playoff race is on, and for many teams, that means that the pressure, too, is on. But going for a playoff spot and missing it, while sure a disappointing experience, is nothing compared to the pressure that a team trying to avoid relegation feels.

Even with the pressure, a missed playoff spot is just a missed opportunity to get to the throne. Life goes on.

A relegation from the top division, on the other hand, is the end, a complete dismissal from the court, a disaster on all levels.

Couldn't deal with the pressure.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

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

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.

Late bloomer.

» Continued

Feb 12, '12 : Wrist and shout

Filed under: Hockey

Recently, I’ve been tracking down former Team Finland players, collecting their stories of how they broke into the national team. Last night, at a game, I sat next to Petri Skriko who played his first national team games thirty years ago, in the spring of 1981. He was one of the last players to get cut from the Helsinki World Championships team in the 1982, so he set his sights on the 1984 Olympics instead.

“In December 1983, we played an exhibition game against Czechoslovakia in Finland, before leaving for the annual Izvestija Cup in Moscow,” Skriko said.

Skriko.

» Continued

Feb 07, '12 : Under the stars

Filed under: Hockey

And that was the second Finnish Winter Classic. A real Helsinki derby, with the reds, IFK, taking on the whites, Jokerit, in front of 35 000 people in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The home team, IFK, won the game in a shootout, 3-2. And you know there’s magic in the air when the nicest play of the game is Jarkko Ruutu’s forehand-backhand deke in the shootout.

Last year, the home team - then Jokerit - lost the game so IFK is now 2-0 in their outdoor games in the SM-liiga.

While the February 2011 derby was the first outdoor game in the Finnish league history, it wasn’t that long ago the Finnish top teams still battled for points while battling against snow and freezing cold. The league was founded in 1975, as an entity divorced from the federation.

Back then, the first indoor arena in the country was just ten years old. In the early 1970s, several of the rinks were converted into arenas, and surprisingly many are still - after renovations - home arenas to Finnish league teams.

That old rink.

» Continued

Jan 26, '12 : Catch a rising tsar

Filed under: Hockey

When I was 17, many moons ago, I lived in a small Finnish town called Joensuu, in the eastern part of the country, about an hour from the Russian border. Except that it wasn’t the Russian border, it was the Soviet border, and it wasn’t such a big of a deal. There’s nothing on the other side of the border, anyway, just forest. There’s nothing else in about a hundred mile radius from the city.

There was no Internet, and therefore no YouTube, but there was rock’n’roll so my friends and I spent a lot of time sitting in each others’ rooms listening to tapes and records, and swapping tapes and records with each other.

And trying to learn those first few chords to Smoke on the Water.

(As it happens, still the only chords I know).

Two years after the Joensuu gig.

» Continued

Jan 10, '12 : Close encounters

Filed under: Hockey

Last week in Sweden, some 600 000 people stayed up or got up in the middle of the night to watch the World Juniors final between Sweden and Russia on TV. The average was 530 000 and by the time Mika Zibanejad beat Andrei Makarov in the Russian net, 600 000 people had tuned in.

And the way the game ended, it was obviously worth losing some sleep.

After the game, Sweden’s Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall said that Zibanejad had told him before the game that he’d "finish this game off." A bold prediction coming from a player who had scored just three goals in the tournament, against Latvia and Slovakia – but he backed it up.

"I [repeated it to Boyce-Rotevall] before the overtime too so it was good to get that goal," Zibanejad said. "You have to decide if you want to win this. In the morning, it was a joke, but obviously it’s not a joke anymore."

No, it’s no joke. And every time we repeat it, it becomes a little more of a truth until it becomes a true legend.

No Ralph Cox.

» Continued

Jan 06, '12 : The man with the hat

Filed under: Hockey

Longtime German national team player and national coach Xaver Unsinn passed away on Wednesday, January 4, 2012, in his hometown of Füssen at age 82. With 107 games at World Championships and Olympic Winter Games as a coach he was the coach with the second-most international games behind only legendary Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov.
IIHF.com
One September morning in 1977, I was in a rush to read the sports pages of the Helsinki morning paper, even more than usual, because the Finnish SM-liiga had kicked off the night before. I turned to the back of the newspaper, and saw a headline about Lauri Mononen scoring a “Canadian hat trick”.

I had never heard of such a thing, but I learned that it was not just a regular hat trick, but a double one. Six goals.

A real hat trick.

» Continued

Jan 03, '12 : Tarasov's tough love

Filed under: Hockey

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.

 A.T.

» Continued

Nov 23, '11 : One moment in time

Filed under: Hockey

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.

The hills are alive.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

HHOF Treasures* is a fantastic book with great stories by great writers, and of course, with Matt Manor's magnificent photos. I got to be a small part of it with the chapter I wrote about the men and women working behind the scenes at the Hockey Hall of Fame Resource Center. Here it is.

Descricption in the HHOF receipt: "Finnish sweater, circa 1970, soiled."


Preserving Hockey’s History

Hockey history is full of important, inspiring, capital “M” moments: the cups, the medals, the records and the milestones — the once-in-a-lifetime scenarios. The physical items immortalized in these moments are what first come to mind when you think of the Hockey Hall of Fame; items like the Stanley Cup, Sidney Crosby’s Olympic gold medal-winning puck and stick, or Jacques Plante’s legendary mask.

» Continued

Nov 02, '11 : Men behaving badly

Filed under: Hockey

This is apparently what happened: HV71’s Daniel Rahimi and Färjestad’s Czech defenseman Martin Sevc got into an bit of a scrap which ended with Sevc using a racial slur. The linesman heard it, and Sevc was thrown out of the game.

Växjö’s coach Janne Karlsson was upset with a goal that Linköping scored on overtime and he flipped the finger. His defense was that he wasn’t sending any messages to the referee, but to Andreas Jämtin, a Linköping player who Karlsson said had disrespected him.

When Skellefteås Fredrik Styrman visited his former team, Luleå, for the first time, the local fans welcomed him by chanting “Styrman will be taken out of the ice on a stretcher”.

And that’s just last week. Apparently, Sweden’s not all IKEA meatballs and Pippi Longstocking.

Yes, they are.

» Continued

Oct 17, '11 : Son of a Goon

Filed under: Hockey

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.

Hockey players hug, too!

» Continued

Aug 28, '11 : Purple pain

Filed under: Hockey

One late May evening eight years ago, Wife and I shook hands on a deal we had just made. She would launch a website for Swedish-speaking parents in Finland, and I, at my end, would try to make the world a better place by launching a hockey publication.

The next few months we sat in our kitchen, facing each other, but both typing away on his and her laptop, with the covers leaning on each other, like we were leaning on each other.

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes".

» Continued

Jun 22, '11 : Get shorty

Filed under: Hockey

If you’ve read my hockey blogs before, you know that my favorite players include, among others, Valeri Kharlamov, Marcel Dionne, Theo Fleury, Wayne Gretzky, Sergei Makarov, Vladimir Krutov, Martin St. Louis, Håkan Loob, and Mats Näslund.

With the exception of Fleury and St. Louis, they’re all older than me, and they’re all forwards. So, yes, I was born in the late 1960s and, like my idols, I was a speedy forward in my more active playing days.

Get Shorty.

» Continued

Jun 06, '11 : Streets of Helsinki 2006

Filed under: Hockey

I wrote my first Tuukka Rask story seven years ago when he was a young, up-and-coming goalie prospect. Now he's backing up Tim Thomas in the Stanley Cup Final. Five years ago, another Finnish backup goaltender got his chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final, and I wrote about him, too. Sort of. So, here's one from the archives. From my nhl.com blog:

Monday, June 19, 2006
Streets of Helsinki

Yes, the NHL Final has been completely overshadowed by the World Cup. The World Cup that doesn't have to have the name of the sport in the title. It's just the World Cup. You've all read the stories about the ratings in the U.S., how the Americans apparently prefer professional eating contests and left-handed poker to hockey, so you know what I'm talking about.

An actual Helsinki street.

» Continued

May 21, '11 : Play it again, Jaromir

Filed under: Hockey

Another JJ story, my last of the season. (From IIHF.com).
- - - -
BRATISLAVA – When Jaromir Jagr made his Czech league debut, one of his teammates was Milan Novy, then 36-year-old forward, a key player on the Czechoslovak team that won back-to-back World Championships in 1976 and 1977. Novy had returned to Kladno a few years earlier after a stint in Switzerland and Austria, and had helped bring the famous club back to the top division, before retiring after that year with Jagr in 1989.

If it feels like Jaromir Jagr has always been around, it’s simply because he started young. He played his first World Championship in Switzerland in 1990 as an 18-year-old, and in September 1991, he was on Czechoslovakia’s Canada Cup team – as a Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jaromír Jágr, Jr.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

A couple of years ago I wrote a chapter for a book published by The Hockey News. The book is called The Pursuit of Hockeyness: 99 Things Every Hockey Fan Needs To Do Before They Die. My chapter was about witnessing a European rivalry, or, a Finland-Sweden game, in particular.

Here it is.

"Good game, good game, good game, good game..."

» Continued

Jan 03, '11 : Smile, it's a game

Filed under: Hockey

It’s probably the natural grind of a hockey season, and life, that’s made me feel tired of everything. In the line of business that I’ve been in for the last six, seven years, it’s easy to get cynical. The hype around the games, the stars, the general managers, is draining, and in the end, disappointing, because it seems to me that it creates a world that overpromises and underdelivers.

And that’s where cynicism breeds.

I can't remember the last time I smiled while watching hockey.

Son's favorite part of the game

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Today, I wrote a piece for the International Ice Hockey Federation, about how players returning to Europe sometimes don’t meet the expectations. The transition from one team to another, let alone from one country to another, and from one league to another, can be difficult, and sometimes the high expectations the club management, the fans, and the player himself, aren’t met.

I should know. I was that player once.

This was our home rink, the PEAB-hallen.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

Here's one from NHL.com. Click here if you want to see it as is in the wild, or keep reading below.

Back in the day, when Finns dominated the world’s car racing circuit, an adage was born: "You need a Finn to win." It hasn't been as apt in the NHL, with only seven Finnish Stanley Cup winners, and with the first three earning their rings with the same team, the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s.

No words.

» Continued

Filed under: Hockey

I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent playing hockey, and even less, how many hours I’ve spent sitting in a locker room, or in the parking lot, talking to teammates about the games, and … stuff.
Or how many hours I’ve spent watching, listening to, or reading about hockey.

Let’s just say that I started about 35 years ago, and haven’t quit yet.

Just 500 hours into the journey.

» Continued

Jun 03, '10 : Stanley Cup Magic

Filed under: Hockey

Here's one from the archives, from the pages of Off The Post. A story about Father, Son, and the Stanley Cup.

And he was even happier when he saw the blue travel case.

» Continued

May 28, '10 : Andy Niemi

Filed under: Hockey

Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi is one of the big stories in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. I wrote a piece about him for The Hockey News June 7 issue:
"One day, my father called me to tell me he had been at the local rink to see a junior game and had seen a goalie that impressed him," said Markus Lehto, Niemi's Helsinki-based European agent. "My father is no super scout, but he used to be the CEO of another rink and a team manager with Jokerit, so he knows his hockey."
Still, when his father mentioned "Antti Niemi," Lehto thought his dad was kidding. The only Antti Niemi he knew was the Finnish national soccer team's goalkeeper. But Lehto made a note and went to see the kid.
Read the story here (pdf, 3.1MB).

The one-time Zamboni driver, yes.

May 12, '10 : One-man band

Filed under: Hockey

Well, yeah, I guess I can do anything.

I did this

May 11, '10 : Regroup

Filed under: Hockey

It's playoff time and those not playing anymore just have to hit the links.

» Finland Squeaks by Germany

» Nummelin In a One-Man Club

» Born To Be a Goalie

» Russia Starts Road to Gold

» The Little (Red) Engine That Can

» Danish Shock Therapy