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Finnish ice hockey reigns supreme

By Peter Marten, May 2011

Photo: Martti Kainulainen/LehtikuvaSticks, helmets and gloves fly through the air after the final buzzer sounds and the Finns become world champions.

A 16-year drought comes to an end as Finland dispenses with first Russia, then Sweden to win the Ice Hockey World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia (video and slideshow below).

Anyone who hadn’t been paying attention as the tournament’s opening games drifted past certainly sat up and took note during the Finland–Russia semifinal on Friday, May 13, 2011. Mikael Granlund, a 19-year-old supertalent who plays for Helsinki’s HIFK and has been drafted by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, came up with a crazy goal, picking up the puck on the blade of his hockey stick and flinging it into the goal as he rounded the net. It defies description (see video clip below). Even the Russian fans applauded.

After that score, which the NHL’s website called “the goal heard around the world,” there was no looking back. Finland racked up two more goals and earned a place in the final against Sweden on May 15, relegating the Russians to the bronze-medal match.

Granlund was immediately catapulted to national-hero status and comments began appearing on Facebook to the tune of: “Our Mikael who art on the ice rink, hallowed be thy game. Thy goals be scored, and help us beat the Swedes as you did the Russians.”

What a final!

Mikael Granlund scores on an “airhook” against Russia in the semifinal and the commentator goes berserk.

And what a final it was – at least if you weren’t Swedish. Sweden went up 1–0 seven minutes into the second period, but Finland evened the score seven seconds before the break. In the third period the Finns romped past the Swedes with five goals to win 6–1. The last time Finland won the world championship was 1995 – also against the Swedes, incidentally.

“It’s difficult to find the words,” team captain Mikko Koivu said in a postgame interview, just before the players started spraying champagne over each other – and the photographers – in the locker room. “I don’t remember anything of the game.” Granlund didn’t score but the momentum from his goal against Russia carried over to the game against Sweden.

Such is the significance of hockey in Finland that many players, and many Finns watching on TV back home, went misty-eyed with emotion as the medals were dealt out. Then they got down to some serious celebrating, and jubilant yells of triumph could be heard on the streets of Finland far into the night.

Finnish ice hockey is as good as gold again.


The golden game


See also on thisisFINLAND

Carnival crowd greets hockey heroes (slideshow)


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