Tuesday’s games

31.1.2008
HIFK – SaiPa 5-4 60min
Ilves – HPK 4-3 60min
JYP – Jokerit 6-4 60min
Kärpät – Ässät 6-2 60min
Lukko – Tappara 2-4 60min
Pelicans – Blues 2-3 60min
TPS – KalPa 4-3 60min

I won’t post a table, it hasn’t changed much. A good win for Jyp cemented their 6th place, and HIFK huffed and puffed their way past SaiPa.  Highlights are in the usual place, with the Jyp film strangely lacking goal celebration noise.


HIFK-Jokerit fighting special

26.1.2008

There was a bit of a barney in the HIFK-Jokerit game today. It was the last derby of the season so I suppose they wanted to take their final chance to punch their neighbour’s lights out. Jokerit’s Sami Helenius and HIFK’s new Czech defenceman Libor Ustrnul were the guilty parties. You can see highlights at Nelonen’s site.

Results:

HPK – Tappara 1-2 62min
Jokerit – HIFK 5-2 60min
Kärpät – JYP 4-1 60min
SaiPa – Blues 6-2 60min
Ässät – Pelicans 3-5 60min

And table:

1. Kärpät 42 90
2. Jokerit 44 87
3. Pelicans 45 83
4. Blues 42 79
5. Tappara 43 76
6. JYP 43 71
7. HIFK 43 68
8. Ilves 42 68
9. Lukko 43 60
10. TPS 44 58
11. SaiPa 43 51
12. HPK 45 46
13. KalPa 43 38
14. Ässät 44 34

Ice in Tampere

25.1.2008

Further to my previous hand wringing about the weather, I had a look at some outdoor hockey locations today. After a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued first and foremost by the origins of the sport in Tampere. I have been there before, and been amused by the Finnish obsession with beating Sweden in 1995 and envious of the children who could spend all their time on the slapshot game without embarrassment, but this time was different.

I was the only visitor there surrounded by (far too many) guides, so the slapshot thing was out. I am too crap at it. The Globen exhibits are funny and always will be, but I’ve seen them before. Note to foreigners who might not expect it: Finns don’t do open top buses, they celebrate in cabriolets. I did have a crafty listen to ‘den glider in‘, though.

For those who don’t know, this was the song released by the Swedish national team and Nick Borgen before the championships. The title and chorus is a line of commentary from the 1969 World Championships, which Sweden won. As the winning goal went in, the commentator screamed ‘it’s gliding in!’, a line that might possibly have as much significance for Swedes as Kenneth Wolstenholm’s commentary on the 1966 World Cup final does for my compatriots.

The lyrics are a little bit premature, to put it mildly. ‘We have done it before, we will do it again, beating them all one by one’, the song begins. So when Finland won their first ever World Championship – under a Swedish coach, Curt Lindström, and in Stockholm to boot – they immediately adopted the song as their own anthem. For some reason Finnish people speaking Swedish sound incredibly sarcastic to me, an effect not wholly avoided by those whose first language is Swedish.

The celebrations took place in Sergels Torg, the square that had been reserved for the Swedish squad to parade their trophy, with 20,000 Finns going mental instead. When they got back they had huge parties – using the aforementioned cabriolets as transport – in the market squares of Helsinki, Tampere and Turku. And of course they released their own version of the song….

Anyway, I digress. The first part of the Finnish HHOF is the section with all the old equipment used by players in the good old days, and a few pictures of the first games in Tampere. The equipment looks flimsy, to be honest, and it makes you wonder just how hard people must have been in those days. The pictures show the first hockey games in Tampere, which took place on the ice at Lake Pyhäjärvi. Today I went to have a look at the ice there, to see if it would support a game now, and the unsurprising answer is that no, it would not:

Pyhäjärvi

Pyynikki ice

Melting ice

This lake only froze this week and after 20 or so hours of temperatures above zero, it wasn’t in a good state. I also had a look at the artificial ice at Pyynikki, which was the main stadium for Tappara/TBK and Ilves before Hakametsä was built. Pyynikki is something of a haven for sport in Tampere, as well as having beautiful beaches, forests, a viewing tower with an excellent cafe, and some very expensive residential property. The athletics track there used to be the home of Tampere football, and the Tampere tennis tournament takes place near Hotel Rosendahl every year too.

Here is the hockey stadium in the days when it was used more regularly:

This period (from 1940-1960) was a golden age for hockey in Tampere, with clubs from the city winning 13 out of 20 championships. Curiously, given this relative dominance, only in 1958, 1959 and 1960 did two Tampere sides contest the final. The kits were a LOT better in those pre-advertising days:

Pentti Toivonen (TK-V), Erkki Koiso (Ilves) and Yrjö Hakala (Tappara) pose for a picture in 1960

Here’s Pyynikki stadium today:

Old Pyynikki stadium

Pyynikki ice dancers

Pyynikki ice hockey

No real point to these pictures, I just thought you might appreciate before and after shots taken from my lovely winter walk. And I did want to reassure Ursus Arctos that artificial ice is still in use and not in significant danger, despite what HBL might have to say about it.

As for the future, who knows? Hopefully it won’t be as bad as people fear, and this winter will prove to be some kind of horrific one-off. While I don’t play hockey, I really will be annoyed if sunny, crisp days like today become rarer with this climate change business.


HIFK win storming derby

25.1.2008

Sometimes TV schedulers make really dumb decisions, and tonight was one of those times. Canal+ decided that they would show Pelicans vs Blues, a showcase of the also-rans of SM Liiga, and left the HIFK-Jokerit game well alone. As Pelicans cruised to a 2-1 win over Espoo’s not-so-finest, HIFK made an amazing 3rd period comeback to go into a 4-2 lead before Jokerit tied the game with a short-handed equaliser on 59.08 minutes.

Elsewhere, Ässät went into a 2-0 lead before remembering how rubbish they are and losing 4-2 at TPS, and KalPa lost 5-2 to Kärpät.

1. Kärpät 41 87
2. Jokerit 43 84
3. Pelicans 44 80
4. Blues 41 79
5. Tappara 42 74
6. JYP 42 71
7. HIFK 42 68
8. Ilves 42 68
9. TPS 43 58
10. Lukko 42 57
11. SaiPa 42 48
12. HPK 44 45
13. KalPa 43 38
14. Ässät 43 34

I can only find highlights of Pelicans-Blues and KalPa-Kärpät. I’d like to see the Helsinki derby goals again, especially the disallowed Jokerit goal in the 1st period, so if anyone knows where to find them please post the link in the comments section…

EDIT: Thanks to Bill, we can now offer a link to Nelonen’s highlights from the Helsinki derby.


Nil nil nil

22.1.2008

Not a single away goal in SM-Liiga tonight, with convincing wins for Tappara, Jokerit and Blues against Ilves, Lukko and SaiPa respectively. The standout game was the derby at Hakametsä, with a 3-0 win cementing Tappara’s place in the top 6. Here’s the table:

1. Kärpät 40 84
2. Jokerit 42 83
3. Blues 40 79
4. Pelicans 43 77
5. Tappara 42 74
6. JYP 42 71
7. Ilves 42 68
8. HIFK 41 66
9. Lukko 42 57
10. TPS 42 55
11. SaiPa 42 48
12. HPK 44 45
13. KalPa 42 38
14. Ässät 42 34

And highlights from Hakametsä.


What will global warming do to hockey?

20.1.2008

There was a story in yesterday’s paper about the poor winter we’re having, and how it is affecting the ski-ing trails and municipal ice rinks that are usually available at this time of year. When the temperature is above freezing point, it costs a hell of a lot of money to keep ice rinks in decent shape, and some municipalities are deciding that that isn’t a good investment right now.

Oulunkyla ice park (the realm of M-15) is currently costing €600 a day in electricity bills, thanks to the warm weather. The total cost to Helsinki council’s recreation department is running at €2,500 a day, which of course must be set against the savings they are making from not having to clear snow and spread gravel on the roads. Sari Hartonen, from Finland’s Meterological Institute, was not impressed with the use of coal-produced electricity.

‘It’s not especially smart to freeze ice rinks, ice halls and ski tunnels now, when it’s so warm,’ she told Hufvudstadsbladet.

Positive feedback loops and climate change aside, do Finnish kids have the commitment to keep playing hockey when it becomes difficult for them to do so? Do city councils want to keep the facilities and infrastructure in place when it costs so much more money and becomes that bit more environmentally unfriendly? I used to play football on grass in this kind of weather. You get very muddy, but it’s a lot of fun and you don’t need much equipment.

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There were a lot of goals in SM Liiga yesterday. In Nelonen’s televised game of the month, Ässät lost their local derby but only on a penalty shoot-out. Kärpät won a thriller at TPS, HIFK got an overtime victory over Tappara, and SaiPa surprisingly beat Pelicans. Results and table (JA means extra time):

HIFK – Tappara 5-4 JA

Ilves – HPK 6-4

JYP – KalPa 4-0

SaiPa – Pelicans 5-4

TPS – Kärpät 4-5 JA

Ässät – Lukko 2-3 JA

1. Kärpät 40 84
2. Jokerit 41 80
3. Pelicans 43 77
4. Blues 39 76
5. Tappara 41 71
6. JYP 42 71
7. Ilves 41 68
8. HIFK 41 66
9. Lukko 41 57
10. TPS 42 55
11. SaiPa 41 48
12. HPK 44 45
13. KalPa 42 38
14. Ässät 42 34

Here are highlights of the Ilves game.


Tappara 5 Blues 2

17.1.2008

While waiting for Scottie Pippen to arrive in Finland, I found myself in Pasila. One of the least enjoyable areas of Helsinki, it does not have much to offer the casual visitor, but I was lucky enough to happen upon the Golden Malibu Beach bar and settled in for some refreshment. As luck would have it, that particular Friday was karaoke night, and I was treated to a fantastic rendition of Tapparan mies. There and then, I decided to make more of an effort to understand the culture of these strange people, and tonight I made a start.

Espoo Blues were SM Liiga’s form team coming into this game, based on the last ten games, but they lost on Tuesday to Jokerit and were looking to bounce back. They did not.

The game did seem a bit faster, and the Espoo side looks bigger and quicker than Tappara, but they had no end product whatsoever. The first goal was appalling defensively, but well taken by Venälainen, and Espoo never really looked interested after that. You can see the goals here.

Tappara fans seemed happy enough, but the game summed up this season’s SM Liiga really: teams taking points off each other and nobody really dominating. There have been high hopes for Jyp and Espoo, and there might still be for Pelicans, but the working assumption is that Jokerit and Kärpät will contest the play-off final.

That’s a happy enough outcome for those concerned about the financial viability of Finland’s representatives in next year’s European Champions League, as the Finnish qualifiers will be the finalists and those two clubs are the ‘biggest’ in the country, if you exclude HIFK. The ECL is going to be backed by large amounts of Russian cash and might provide the likes of Kärpät with some competition, so we can only hope it will be a success.

Here is a breakdown of the format, taken from the IIHF website:

  • The 12-team Champions Hockey League group stage will feature the national champions (playoff winners) from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Additionally, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden will be represented by a second team – the winner of the regular season (or the second of the regular season, if the regular season winner is also playoff winner). A 12th team will be announced later.
  • The 12 teams will be seeded into four groups of three clubs. The teams will play a double round-robin (home & away) for a total of four games per team. The four group winners will advance to the semi-final. Competition dates for the CHL Group Stage: October 8, 22, 29, November 12, 19, December 3, 2008.
  • The semi-final (determined by draw) will be played home & away (two games). Competition dates for the semi-finals: December 10, 2008 & January 7, 2009.
  • The semi-final winners on aggregate will advance to the final, which also will be played in two games, home & away. Competition dates for the final: January 21 & 28, 2009.

The money involved is not exactly small beer either for Finnish clubs:

  • 300,000 Euro per team (appearance fee)
  • 50,000 Euro for each win in the group stage
  • 200,000 Euro for semi-final appearance
  • 1,000,000 Euro to the CHL winner
  • 500,000 Euro for the other finalist
  • 300,000 Euro to each participating league
  • 100,000 Euro to each participating national association

This is the way hockey should be going, a smaller number of more meaningful matches. SM liiga is taking tentative steps in the same direction with the tweaking of the groups they announced recently. The regular season will go up from 56 games to 58, but the number of games played against ‘local rivals’ will be reduced. For clubs like Kärpät, who have no real local rivals and get bored of playing crap teams based four hours away, it’s a good deal. For clubs like Jokerit and HIFK, who will lose a big derby, it will hopefully make the remaining derbies a bigger deal. And eventually, maybe we can reduce the number of games played as the ECL grows in importance.

Attendances are averaging pretty much the same as last year across the whole league, but that statistic masks some outliers. Jyp are the big movers, going from an average of 3399 last year to 4066 today. Jokerit have seen their crowds drop by a similar amount, from 8633 to 8260, and TPS have also seen a big drop. Interestingly (for me at least) Ässät have retained most of their support despite being so awful this year. Here are the figures (this year’s average first):

  1. Jokerit 8260 8633
  2. HIFK 6327 6582
  3. Kärpät 5984 5660
  4. Ilves 5647 5582
  5. TPS 5618 6238
  6. Tappara 5385 5430
  7. Blues 4795 4750
  8. Ässät 4461 4526
  9. Pelicans 4272 4063
  10. Jyp 4066 3399
  11. Lukko 3671 3707
  12. SaiPa 3485 3448
  13. KalPa 3359 3182
  14. HPK 3324 3577

Purely because I found the stats earlier this week, here are the figures for Mestis.