Are you a hoser? Do you love hockey? Have you been thinking about watching your first live international game in Finland?
As a hockey-loving hoser in Helsinki, I highly recommend it, but feel it my duty to better explain some of the nuances one may encounter from the frozen game in Finland.
Let’s face it – apart from the players donning a ridiculous number of advertisements on their equipment, and most the names ending in “-nen”, a lot of us don’t know much about Finnish hockey. That said, to avoid any surprises when watching Jokerit, HIFK, or any of your other favorite Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga) teams, allow me to present to you five crucial notes for a Canadian at a Finnish hockey game.
Yes, it looks completely ridiculous, but the player with the most points on either team will skate around the entire game with a shiny gold helmet. No, I am not making this up, that’s just how they do. To a Canadian, it may seem like something a douchey Russian hotshot from the eighties would wear, but in Finland it’s a badge of honour.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, if someone were to wear that on a Canadian ice surface, he would instantly transform himself into a target for hacking, mugging, slashing, and bashing. But this is not so in Finland. Which brings me to my next point:
There is very little rough stuff in Finnish hockey. If a fight looks like it’s about to break out, the refs jump in immediately and break things up. And the penalties for dropping the mitts are up there with a houseleague hockey game – steep.
Apart from the first shift of the game, the players do not consistently finish their checks (Ha! Finnish!), and a hard open ice hit – even if it’s clean – will be called a lot of the time. The penalty will be roughing, charging, or interference, but in reality the player will sit two minutes because he hit too hard.
Yes, the ice is bigger, so running around to finish a check may be counterproductive on many occasions. But, it does not excuse the lack of intensity in the corners and along the boards. Until Finland learns how to add some jam into their game, they better get used to polishing bronze.
Prepare your ears for blasphemy because this one hurts to report: You can’t drink beer in the seats.
Watching a live hockey game without a cold beer is like going to church without fireworks – it just isn’t the same and doesn’t make sense!
Unfortunately, if one is familiar with Finnish drinking habits, this rule becomes a necessity. If Finns were allowed three straight periods in which to drink at their seats, few games would finish (Ha!) before somebody inevitably climbed over the glass to shout at the opposing team or ask the goalie if he wants a smoke.
Thankfully, the arena-beer culture is not that different. If you do decide to have a pint in the designated area, you’ll still end up paying an unholy amount for a glass of watered down piss. Just like home!
Regarding the fans: It’s basically like a soccer match. The hardcore fans will get together in specific areas (usually behind the goalies on either side of the rink), stand most of the time, arms around each other, and go through various team songs, chants, and choreographed cheers while waving giant flags with the team’s colours. This will go on for most of the game.
Fans do not boo the opposing players – they hiss and whistle. As well, you will see more team scarves waving around at a hockey game than you could fathom.
While some purists may argue that these football tactics have no place within the vicinity of a puck, it is kind of funky to see, since you sure as hell wont see it at home.
And Number 5:
By far this is the most bizarre thing a Canadian will experience at a Finnish hockey game. It’s also the most difficult to explain, but I’ll do my best: When a puck squeaks by the net or a near chance is missed, the natural sound most North American hockey fans will make is somewhere in the neighbourhood of: “Ohhhhh!”
This is not the case in Finland.
In Finland the two sounds you will hear are: “Eeeeehhhh! (which sounds like our ‘eh’, from the Finnish word for no, ‘ei’) and ‘Huiiiiiiii!’ (From the Finnish word ‘hyi’, which sounds like the French ‘oui’). It is all very odd.
So, when a chance comes close, remember to make the sounds ‘eh’ (like Fonzie) or ‘ee’ (as in beet). Because if you end up cheering with your instincts and shouting ‘Ohhhh!’ you will noticeably stand out in a sea of thousands. On top of that, you’ll look like a fool who knows nothing about hockey. You know, like one of them…whatchacallits…Americans.