A Letter to a Very Special High School Graduate

Son,

School’s out and it’s time for me to give you some fatherly piece of advice, but as you know, I’m not much of a speaker. Besides, all the most profound things have already been said by others before me.

And those others were two American Bobs, namely Gale and Zemeckis, who wrote the screenplay for the best movie ever made: Back to the Future (Part I).

(Who said ¡Three Amigos!?)

It just so happens that the main character in the movie is a kid about your age, about to leave school, stuck in a period between the past and the future, something we call present. It also just so happens that I saw the movie for the first time when I was your age, about to graduate from high school, not knowing at all what I wanted to do.

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Life on Planet Lankinen

Before the season, few people gave the Chicago Blackhawks any chance of making the playoffs. No, no, this was a team in a rebuild mode, especially when Jonathan Toewshad to step away due to illness.

And yet, the Hawks are currently fourth in the Central division, a couple of games over .500, and they’ve done it thanks to heroic performances by Patrick Kane and their Finnish rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen.

Lankinen, 25, may be a rookie, but his hockey journey is almost the perfect example of how to build a successful career, step by step.

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Sunshine Sketches of Another Little Town

Barry “Big Deal” Davis sat down at his table and gestured to the young lady in the caravan that was also the food truck that he wanted a cup of coffee. Davis had hardly had time to get properly settled in the white plastic chair when the waitress came out with a paper mug and set it on the table in front of Davis. 

He liked to tell people that he had once been kind of a big deal – hence the official nickname – but when asked to elaborate on the topic, he clammed up, and changed the subject. That, naturally, as was his intention, only made people to want to know more. It also made them believe the story.

And that’s why that nickname stuck, instead of one of the many other names people called him behind his back.

Andre.

Fat Bastard.

Dumbo.

Orson Welles.

And of course: Fat Elvis.

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All by myself

Diagonally across the street from Helsinki’s first indoor hockey rink parking lot, there’s a low, one-storey yellow stone building with a red roof. In the winter, it’s visible from the street, but in the summer, it sits in the shadow of the birches, elms, and maples that line street in front of it. 

Behind the small building, there are several bigger and slightly Gothing-looking buildings – designed by Magnus Schjerfbeck, brother of painter Helene Schjerfbeck – and originally built in 1910 as Helsinki’s first epidemic hospital but by the 1970s, they were home to a children’s hospital. Aurora, it was called. 

What the one-storey building was built for meant for, I don’t know, but I do know that when I spent about a month in the children’s hospital, a measles epidemic broke out and to spare me, the doctors put me in quarantine. 

I was five years old. 

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Canada & me

I remember when I realized the world had truly gotten smaller. About ten years ago – maybe more, but I’ve learned that everything seems “ten years ago” these days even if it was 2 or 22 years ago – I was visiting my old small hometown in Finland and an old friend of mine told me that Deep Purple was going to play at the sports arena in town.

Deep Purple? In our town? Surely there must have been a booking error. Deep Purple was a legendary band we only read about on the pages of Metal Hammer (if somebody could find a copy of the magazine in one of the two kiosks that carried such magazines).

Back then, all I ever wanted to do was to travel to Canada. That’s when Terry moved in our house, pinned a huge Maple Leaf flag on his room’s wall and hung his maroon Fort Qu’Appelle Falcons baseball hat on the lamp.

Even if there was no Internet, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Pinterest, naturally, I had always k that the world was out there, somewhere. I watched Happy Days and Dallas, and the world came to me as foreign hockey players, first on TV, and then at a rink near me as Canadian import players – none of them more impressive to me than Mr. Frank Neal of Toronto, Ontario, Canada who played with a long stick and sported an impressive moustache, and Marcel Dionne of Drummondville, Quebec, Canada who – according to Dad who had read about him in the paper – had the strongest forearms in the world.

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Lauri Mononen – taistelija, taiteilija

“Tanssii kuin perhonen, pistää kuin ampiainen”.

Ensimmäisen kerran kuulin Muhammad Alin kuuluisan kuvauksen itsestään Hockey Sports Shop -urheiluliikkeessä Helsingin Oulunkylässä. Taivaskallion kupeessa ollut liike ei ollut ihan tavallinen urheilukauppa, sillä sen olivat perustaneet HIFK-pelaajat Lauri Mononen ja Reijo Laksola.

Syksyllä 1978 Ali oli kovan paikan edessä, sillä hän oli helmikuussa, heikosti harjoitelleena, hävinnyt raskaan sarjan MM-tittelinsä helpoksi vastustajaksi arvioidulle Leon Spinksille. Koko maailma odotti uusintaottelua ja Hockey Sports Shopissakin oli Ali v Spinks -matsin juliste.

Late matki Alin kevyttä askelta ja sanoi tanssivansa kuin perhonen.

“Ali voittaa,” Late ennusti, koska hän toivoi Alin voittoa.

Laten ennustus toteutui, ja Ali voitti Spinksin. Ali jäi eläkkeelle ainoana nyrkkeilijänä, joka oli voittanut raskaan sarjan tittelin kolmesti – mutta teki sitten paluun ja hävisi Larry Holmesille.

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All about the kids

We all have dreams, and we’re told to follow them. We encourage children to work hard and to do everything they can to make their dreams come true.

Yet we also know that we all need some help along the way. Mats Zuccarello had help. Even Henrik Lundqvist had help. And to make sure they can, in turn, help others, they joined forces and put together Summer Classic, an outdoor charity game at Ullevaal, Norway’s national stadium.

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A legend of a man

Lauri Mononen, March 22, 1950 – August 5, 2018

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.

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The 520 to the stars

All buses in the Stockholm county are red, except the ones that are blue so people talk about the blue buses as “blue buses”, instead of using their official line numbers. In Sollentuna, an suburb a mere 35-minute bike ride from downtown Stockholm, only the 179 that goes southwest from the commuter train station to Vällingby is blue, the rest of them are red.

About 35 years ago, a ten-year-old, fair-haired boy got off a red bus number 520 at the Sollentunavallen stop. He crossed the street, and had he taken a moment to take in the view instead of running down the stairs, he would’ve seen a 17th century mansion at the end of a Baltic sea bay, but his eyes were set on one thing only: the outdoor hockey rink.

The outdoor rink is gone now as is the other outdoor rink that was built next to the first one. Both are now indoor rinks, the first outdoor rink being now the “arena”, the second one a very cold practice rink.

On the red-brick walls of the arena there are two large ceramic images of local sports stars. In one of them, the one closest to the stairs that take you to the bus stop, there’s Kajsa Bergqvist, clearing 2.02 in women’s high jump at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

The other image, next to the entrance to the hockey rink, is a large photo of Mats Sundin in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, carrying the puck down the ice.

And from there, Mats has the best view over the bay, that view he may have missed when he took the bus from Viby to Sollentunavallen, the sports center.

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