IIHF.com: Family ties

Got something on iihf.com today.

The Nordic Trophy, a preseason series between five Finnish and five Swedish teams, might be a precursor to the ultimate dream, a pipe dream if you wish, of merging the Finnish and Swedish leagues.

Read it here, or below.

Finnarna älskar Sverige

Brothers learning to play nice
Finland and Sweden closer than ever

STOCKHOLM – Marie Hallman, a Swedish reporter recently wrote in her blog about an event where she was talking to a Swedish player, a young player, about the importance of beating Finland in the World Championships. According to her account of the conversation, the player was baffled, and didn’t really understand what she was talking about.

“Then again, he was only twenty,” she wrote.

There are two lessons in that anecdote. One, an obvious one: times sure change. And two, a more subtle one: you don’t need to tell a Finnish player of the importance of beating Sweden. That’s in their blood.

But, it’s really not that difficult to understand. Last season, there were over 60 Finnish players in the Swedish Elitserien, and while the number of Swedish players in the Finnish SM-Liiga was under ten, neither country is the black hole for players it was in the 1970s.

When Erkki Laine was tearing up the Elitserien in 1978, scoring 22 goals in 36 games, he was hardly a blip on the radar for Finnish hockey establishment – let alone the fans. The next season, he took it up a notch and scored 30 goals, but still didn’t make the Finnish national team roster.

He did finally get the call, after he scored 41 goals – in the Finnish SM-Liiga.

But with this week’s announcement of Finnkampen, a competition between the men’s, women’s, and under-18 for both boys and girls, in September, the two countries, the big hockey rivals, took another step towards really knowing each other better.

The games will be played on September 6-7 in Sweden and Finland, and the losers will have to lick the boots of the winning team all season long.

Well, not really, no prize will be necessary when honour is at stake.

The Finnkampen – or the Suomi-Ruotsi-maaottelu in Finnish – coincides with another Finland-Sweden initiative, namely the Nordic Trophy finals that will be played in Linkoping the same weekend.

The Nordic Trophy, a preseason series between five Finnish and five Swedish teams, might be a precursor to the ultimate dream, a pipe dream if you wish, of merging the Finnish and Swedish leagues.

The Swedish teams already include HV71 and Linkoping, the two Swedish CHL teams, as well as two Swedish powerhouses: Frolunda, with the highest attendance average three years in the row, and Farjestad, a dynasty of its own. The fifth Swedish team is the pride of Stockholm, Djurgarden.

From Finland, the five teams are HIFK, Jokerit, Karpat, Tappara, and TPS. It may suffice to say that only once – in 2006, HPK – in the last 23 years, has the Finnish champion been outside that group.

In other words, in the long term, these ten teams are the best of what the leagues have to offer. What would happen if they didn’t have their finals on September 6, but instead, just kept on going until April 6?

What seemed like a pipe dream in 1978 is at least just a regular dream in 2008. And who knows, maybe in 2018 – see, everything happens faster these days – it could be just a natural step and we’ll see a full-fledged Nordic league up and running. On paper, it makes sense. The fans would know the players, travel is nothing, the market would be bigger, and the best part: the rivalry is there already.

The young Swedish players have it in them, too. No doubt.

One thought on “IIHF.com: Family ties

  1. I love this idea! The competition would be fierce, you could have a Swedish division, and a Finnish division and watch the rivalries take off. I’d rather watch that than the NHL
    Totally off topic, I love reading your articles, i just wish i could read the ones in Finnish (or at least find out what a Ruotsi-maaottelu is)
    I am a Canadian of Finnish Descent actively seeking a Finnish/English dictionary..
    thats enough rambling, keep up the good work!

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