by Ville Välimäki, degree student in Media
Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Finland, and Finland has twice won the World Championship: in 1995 and 2011. (Clip of Finland going crazy after 2011 world championship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlltIY9v5Og) Hockey is a hobby for almost 200,000 Finns and there are about 68,000 registered players, 430 clubs, 3,000 teams and 40,000 games played per season!
In Finland not long after WWII, kids played street game called “ice ball”, which was a really simplified version of ice hockey as we know now. They’d scramble through neighborhoods buried in snow, batting and kicking a piece of cork the size of a tennis ball. But some of the more serious kids wanted to play hockey and eventually got the right gear and started to play more professionally. Back then, teams weren’t especially well organized: the worst athlete was usually stuck in front of a net, while the better ones attacked. The same passion for ice hockey is still around and when kids learn to walk they are taught to ice skate pretty soon after and ice hockey is practiced all the way from pre-school.
Liiga is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. Teams are situated in the major cities of Finland and they usually have a significant following in their own city. The team names are usually the traditional name of the club. All clubs are commonly known by the name of their team. Trophy awarded annually to the winner of the liiga playoffs is called The Kanada-malja “Canada Bowl”. The trophy is so named because it was donated by Canada’s Finnish community in 1951 and has been the main prize for the winning team each year.
Tappara or Ilves?
Tampere has two major ice hockey teams: Tappara and Ilves. It’s an old debate whether you choose Tappara or Ilves as your own Tampere team. There is no real explanation why someone chooses one team over the other, but if you ask anyone from Tampere about it, most of the people have a favorite team and strong opinions about the other team.
I definitely recommend taking a group of mates and head to see a game in the legendary Hakametsä Ice Hockey hall, which is the oldest hall in Finland and feel the real ice hockey vibes yourself.