Pharaoh travels to Moscow

13.12.2007

Quite a piece of news this one. Jyp announced today that Sinuhe Wallinheimo, team’s mascot and definite first goalie, has been signed for next two seasons…but will go on loan to Dynamo Moscow for next four months. If you are going to say that it’s all about money in his case, you don’t actually have to, as that has indeed been confirmed by everyone involved. Wallinheimo is 36 years, married with children and a mortgage, and the ongoing one is apparently the last season he – or any other foreign goalie, for that matter -would be allowed to play in the Russian league. So he made a deal that he goes first earning big money in Moscow, after which he will happily retire in Jyväskylä. Otherwise he would have played these four months there and the rest of his career elsewhere.

Yes, it does sound like a strange arrangement – it’s not even Christmas, Jyp are 5th in the league, aiming at semi-finals in the spring, Sinuhe is sincerely proud of playing there and among our three most important players – yet after reading about the actual (if rumoured) sums I can quite understand. Himself he will earn probably something between 500.000-600.000 euro for his stint, and Jyp’s compensation should be some 100k or 200k less than that. It’s said to be the biggest transfer fee any Finnish club has ever collected, and supposedly by a wide margin. (The CEO Jukka “Cardealer” Seppänen was at his informative best in the press conference: “First I came up with a sum that I considered big enough for them to forget about it, and the Russians accepted it without even wanting to negotiate. Then I asked them to pay the same sum, but in euros instead of dollars, and they were fine with that too.” This suggests that in Russian hockey they do have money nowadays, and power too – Keskisuomalainen knew that Dynamo’s president is married to the sister of Dimitri Medvedev, Federation’s soon-to-be president.) So, to put it yawningly, it’s almost a win-win situation. The Wallinheimo family will have less mortgage payments to worry about, whereas Jyp will fill up their piggy bank and continue with the same first goalie for one or two seasons more.

But, true enough – “almost”. What about the fans? Or other stakeholders? It was the goddamn THIS spring when Jyp were supposed to fight for medals. Not next spring, or the one after, but spring 2008. It was an extraordinary situation; Virtanen-Immonen-Pihlman were back in town, the latter two only temporarily, and a guy like Dwight Helminen wanted to play a season together with his brother Lars (who scores a very, very nice goal in this highlight clip – it’s right after the interviews). Now that the team’s finances start to be in order and it’s likely that there will be a better home arena in the near future, they may well be able to maintain more or less the same budget level and keep up with the roster race, but I doubt there will be such value for money available too soon again.

The new first goalie is simply the hitherto stunt, Pekka Tuokkola, and his sidekick will be Jarno Laitinen, another Ilves alumnus. This is Tuokkola’s second campaign with Jyp and so far he has been a solid, reliable back-up – but as we all know, good second goalies don’t always make good first goalies, and with Jyp’s defence, you can’t get away with being merely good. It’s a long way to playoffs, still. And what if Tuokkola really lives up the expectations (as I personally believe he will) and, say, drags the team all the way to the finals? And, meanwhile in Russia, the Pharaoh succumbs to his old injuries and watches the latter part of the season from the audience? What then? There’s no way that Tuokkola would go back to his old role, and that’s a role which Sinuhe Wallinheimo fits in as well as yours truly fits in to an amusement park full of happy couples and noisy children. Wouldn’t sound much of a win-win anymore, now would it? To sum it up, whilst having a kind of good feeling about this, I can entirely understand if some other fans aren’t sharing it. But personally I always love a good stir-up, now let’s wait and see how ours will pay off.

In other news, there are strong rumours that Jyp have snatched Jani Tuppurainen, the finest of Kalpa. If he is to join next hockey year’s roster, it’s an excellent signing – but if he will join any sooner then it’s just silly, with all that current firepower we have.

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Channel One Cup Quick Roundup

12.12.2007

We have a week break now in SM-Liiga schedule due to the third instalment of the Euro Hockey Tour. The second, if we have to revive the painful memory, saw them Leijonat finish last on home ice with one win and 2 losses. Close call but still fairly shameful.

This time the lineups from the 4 countries involved (CZE, SWE being the other outsiders) hit the ice in Moscow starting on the 13th. YLE 2 will faithfully feed us the action live on our TV sets. Perhaps one of the last times my TV will grace a major sporting competition since I ain’t ready for the HD, Digiboksi era and am not shedding much tears over that fact.  As it seems to be the case in all these competitions, the Sunday afternoon heartache will once again be against Team Sweden. Rowdiness expected in all the Ale Pup-like establishments of the country.

Shedden’s selection, if you allow me this digression in the Soccer lexicon, shows dramatic changes after the last outing. Both keepers have been replaced, not that Markkanen and Niemi are faring so badly. But one can argue that a rotation of the available Finnish talent between the pipes gives good opportunities to those deserving and does not affect the team chemistry so much. And that is why deserving Lukko’s Vehanen and Kärpät’s Tarkki are making the trip to Putingrad this time.

Only 2 returnees on the defensive side  is bound to destroy any chemistry that might have been built the last time around though. Solid Teemu Aalto, who stands in second place, 2 seconds behind André Benoit in average playing time on the Tappara blueline, comes back and brings along rising star Anssi Salmela (lest we forget) who follows him in second place in scoring among rearguards. Besides one can note the defection of Olympic veterans Niinimaa, Väänänen and AJ Niemi, either their experienced presence will be missed or folks will say good riddance to their head above-the-pack/been-there-partially-done-that attitude. Time will tell. I opt for the latter but then again, what do I know?

We denote the same desertions on the offensive side. Only 2 forwards  returning, which makes you really wonder. Is the whole team philosophy being shaken by the foundations or players are just afraid to go to Russia? Even Hentunen who plays in Kazan skipped this one. One interesting addition is the Finnish Martin Saint-Louis, Jukka Voutilainen, playing now for the Husqvarna 71. Looking forward to see him again circle around the ice under people’s chins. Keep your head up and you’ll miss him!

As for the Swedes, still no signs of Foppa. Complete overhaul in goals there too. Overall only one returnee in D Fernholm (hardly the most significant threat) which again, makes you wonder… do they know something we don’t?

On the Czech side, you can expect much better cohesion on their side. 3 quarters of the roster from the Karjala round is back, Zbynek Irgl included, Thank God! One notable addition is ex-Kärpät winger Petr Tenkrat, back in Europe from an unconvincing stint with the Boston Bruins, landing in Timrå this year.

And the Russians… A solid lineup for the home crowd. To be noted, the presence of Alexander Perezhogin, the man who couldn’t hold a job on the feeble Montreal Canadiens’ right side and now cashes in a 1.5 million (ok only US dollars, but still) salary with  Ufa Salavat Yulayev.

Anyways, you can find the rosters here and make up your own minds and pronostics, as fun as a barrel of monkeys. But since I have to jump head first in the cold water, I say the Czechs will win it. Enjoy the competition, fellas!


Friday Night Fiasco

11.12.2007

Ok,

Let’s get back to business. Welcome to our WordPress format, folks.

Last weekend was a frustrating one for my inner child. I got stripped off my cotton candy by circumstantial pains in the buttocks, as one might put it.

I was supposed to attend the Ilves-SaiPa matchup with a friend of mine that lives in Lahti, but is originally from Lapperanta. He is very good company for these sorts of events, a man that has lived through tough times with his partisanship and to whom the future doesn’t hold much more promises in that sense, and you have to admire the devotion.

But my friend’s daughter fell ill, despite being kilometres away from Nokia’s feces infested poisonous water, maybe by solidarity with the poor children of our suburb, who knows? So I did not have a good enough reason to not accompany my better fraction and our two rowdy Finnbécois kiddos to Pelican town. It seemed to be a good game. I’ll have to wait to witness first hand the wimped up version of Pauli Levokari, only 71 minutes in the pen in 21 games, come on!, the guy must have a new girlfriend.

There was still hope to make it at Isku Areena though, to witness the Pelicans-Jokerit extravaganza, and I chose my word there. A chartered train had apparently been filled with 1000 rowdy Jokerit fans (who are these people?), chanting and dousing their throats with heavy liquid along the new fast train tracks that just recently elevated Lahti to a status nearing that of a Helsinki suburb (if suburb is a status to be “elevated” at, but then again, this is Lahti we are talking about, there is not many places to look but up). But my ride got to town after the first period was over, when the issue of the game was already pretty much sealed (3-1 the score), and unbeknown to yours truly, was about to get pretty historical.

Here‘s the highlights from the match. Utter dominance by the local boys that got the visiting supporters rowdy in a way a Sheffield Wednesday fan would not spit on. Firecrackers, smokbombs and flares galore, with injuries to boot. And my frustrated self meanwhile was drinking alone in my in-laws’ living room all unharmed and bored.

By the way, on the subject of all the respect Doug Shedden seems to get around here, I lately stumbled upon this little video from the 2000-01 season. It narrates in reality Shock Puckumentary (?!) fashion, the season of Saskatchewan enforcer Curtis Voth and the reality of the Tulsa ice hockey aficionados. At the beginning of the second part, you get a fine bit of an interview of the Memphis Riverkings’ coach and I don’t know what you opinion might be, but that doesn’t seem like National Team leading material to me. His last championship win was in Memphis by the way, might remain that way for a long time.

Lahti keeps up the good game (even if they fell short the next day against Timo Vertala and the Tappara Squadron) and I’ll have to witness that first hand sooner than later. And so should you!