Tag Archives: Jari Kurri

Fine Finnish Habs Fan

I first started to see Jarno Tauvo’s comments on Hockey Inside/Out, and I’m very grateful to learn that he comes here too.

And when I learned that he did, I contacted him because I was interested in knowing the path he took in becoming a solid Habs fan.

Below is Jarno, from Turku, Finland, who wrote back and explained.

Jarno

“My native language is Finnish, but the lovely woman who lives with me speaks Swedish. So we speak mixed Finn and Swedish at home. Mostly the person who starts to speak first chooses the language (and she speaks a lot).

“It’s quite common here in Turku to speak Swedish too, this is a bilingual city, only 160 kilometers from Stockholm (Sweden), and luckily we have that narrow sea between us.  So most Swedes understand to stay on their side. My father didn’t, he went to study to Sweden in the 60’s, but was wise enough to come back.

“You asked how I became a Habs fan. Well…
It’s not easy to explain, but I’ll try.

“I was born in 1972.
When I was a child, everybody in Finland followed only skiing or ski jumping. At summertime,  long distance runners were our heroes. News from NHL was normally a week old, if there was any at all. I remember reading different hockey books at the library wondering how cool it looked to play hockey in the NHL.

“Ice hockey was (and still is) quite an expensive sport to have as a hobby. I have to admit I was a fortunate one, because my parents could afford to pay my hockey hobby.

“That was the time when every Finnish boy was a huge fan of Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen in Edmonton. I talked with my father about hockey and the NHL. He told (lied probably) me that Gretzky wears #99 only in honour to the greatest ever, #9, you know who.  He also told me that Montreal Canadiens are the only real hockey team that has been around almost as long as hockey has existed and it is the reason why there is that game of hockey I like to play and watch. That’s probably the moment when I started to search for information about Habs.

“I was extremely happy when Jyrki Lumme was drafted by Montreal. It was at the time when Finnish television aired only Stanley Cup finals. Almost through the whole 90’s, it was the only the Finals we could see. So I’ve seen the Avalanches, Red Wings and Devils ‘domination. Before the internet I had seen only one Habs’ Final game, vs the Kings.

“I became a real “Hardcore Habs fan” when Saku moved from Turku to Montreal. I’m the same age as the older Kiprusoff brother, Marko, who had a short stint there too. He was almost my childhood neighbour. Those were the days when a Finnish hockey legend Timo Nummelin lived in the same building with our family. He has a son Petteri Nummelin, who has played a lot with Team Finland. Petteri plays still in the Finnish elite league “Liiga” at age of 41.

“Suddenly one cable television company from Sweden started to air NHL in Finland too and I had to purchase their package. The only bad thing was that Detroit and Colorado had too many Swedes, so they showed mostly their games. On a plus side, Toronto had Sundin and they played often against the Habs. Thanks to Sundin, I saw those games and a game here and there.

“One of my biggest emotions in a hockey game was to watch Saku’s comeback game vs. Ottawa. Live. I sat on a couch, eyes full of tears, amazed by the standing ovation the Bell Centre gave to him. Then I was sure that being a fan of the Montreal Canadiens means much more than just supporting a team. It is a worldwide community. At the same time when the Bell Centre was celebrating Saku’s comeback from cancer, I lived the same emotions at home, wiping tears and screaming when Craig Rivet scored and rushed to the bench to hug the captain.

“I’m not sure how I became a fan, but maybe that isn’t so rare not to know? As an example, my hometown has a two hockey teams. TPS and TuTo. TPS is like the Habs in Finland. Finns say about Finnish hockey: Game lasts for 60 minutes and at the end TPS wins. Although the last couple of seasons they have been suffering. Finland is a small country with only a little more than 5 million people here and the NHL-players from TPS include the Koivu brothers, Kiprusoff brothers, Jani Hurme, Jere Lehtinen, Kimmo Timonen (started here as pro) Joni Ortio, Rasmus Ristolainen, etc…

“But still my hometown favourite team is TuTo. I don’t know why. They are not a bad rival, because TuTo plays in second highest level. But it’s small and nice team where everybody knows each other.
It’s cool that I work a little with them too. I’m a photographer and I’ve taken their group photos and commercial photos. My photo studio is also a minor sponsor to them… It’s nice that they play well and are the best team in their league, but still. When Habs win, Habs win. TuTo’s headcoach is Artturi Lehkonen’s dad, Ismo Lehkonen. He kept joking about my Habs’s shirt to me, when I was shooting their group photo.

“Here’s some shots from Turku, Finland. The big and old building is the church which is from 1300 century. The river in the photos is the River Aura, that floats in the middle of Turku. It normally freezes in the winter. I Just noticed I don’t have photos from Turku at the summer.”

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Rocket’s 500th

Thanks a lot to Beatnik for sending the video below.

It was Glenn Hall in nets for the Hawks who was the victim on the night the Rocket notched his 500th regular season goal, which was the first time a player had reached that milestone. I had breakfast with Hall once when he was in Powell River for the Allan Cup, and although I didn’t mention the goal, I did ask him who the greatest player ever was, hoping he’d say the Rocket. But it wasn’t to be. His answer, and I wasn’t all that surprised, was Gordie Howe. But he did mention that the Rocket scared the hell out of him close in.

Rocket’s 500th was scored on the power play on Oct. 19, 1957 when he took a pass from Jean Beliveau and blasted it home. He was 36 years old, and received a 10 minute standing ovation from the Forum crowd.

Rocket was the first to hit 500, but not the last by a long shot. He now sits 28th on a list of 42 players to have reached this magical mark and beyond, including Wayne Gretzky in first place, who managed a ridiculous 894 when all was said and done. But of the 42 players, only seven scored their 500th in less time than Rocket, who did it in 863 games. (Rocket would score 544 regular season goals before hanging up his skates).

The others who scored their 500th in less games than Rocket would be:

Wayne Gretzky, who got his 500th in just his 575th game, which is mind-boggling. Mario Lemieux made it after 605 games, Mike Bossy in game number 647, Brett Hull scored his 500th during his 741st game. Phil Esposito in his 803rd game, Jari Kurri in his 833rd match, and Bobby Hull in 861 games.

Big Hopes For The Danish Guy

I suppose it’s a valid question – why haven’t there been more Danish hockey players in the NHL? It’s near Sweden, so shouldn’t they play like the Swedes? It’s not tremendously far from Finland and even Russia, so where are the Jari Kurri’s and Valeri Kharlamov’s of Denmark?

Of course it’s also close to Germany and Norway and there’s been no Kurri’s and Kharlamov’s come out of these places either.

The Danes don’t seem to be a hockey-mad country. And if I was in Copenhagen right now, I’d take to the streets and ask the locals why.

They’d say they’re a soccer nation. And they’d mention that they enjoy some fine sailing and cycling and badminton and eating in cafes. Hockey is way down the list. Just like in South Carolina and Louisiana.

Hey you Danes, you can fit hockey in too! Like the Swedes do. Like the German’s are doing. Your country is considered to be one of the happiest countries in Europe. And hockey could make you even happier!

I guess being near hockey countries doesn’t guarantee anything. The US is only a jockstrap throw away from Canada and it’s only natural that a country of over 300 million would produce a substantial variety of great players, as they do down there. Denmark on the other hand has only five million so players are few and far between.

That’s the theory. Until you google Sweden and see that there’s only nine million Swedes and they churn out hockey players the way the Danes churn out smoked herring in their little cafes.

Denmark has produced a whopping seven NHL’ers over the years – Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, Philip Larsen, Frans Nielson, Peter Regin, and Poul Popiel, a guy with a resume of years in the NHL and WHA in the 1960’s and ’70’s but was raised in Canada so it’s kind of cheating.

Last but not least from the list is Lars Eller, a guy who might turn out to be an NHL beauty and make everyone forget Poul Popiel.

Eller has a special look we saw in his few pre-season games and the opener against the Leafs. He plays like he’s been around, which he hasn’t, unless you include 70 games with the Peoria Riverman of the AHL, seven games in a St. Louis Blues uniform (2 goals), and a handful of season in Sweden and Denmark. But he has poise, seems to have big league hockey smarts, skates and makes plays like a young Mats Sundin, and speaks English better than Tiger Williams.

Sure it’s silly to get overly-excited about a player with not much in the way of a resume, and maybe he’ll end up being the Danish version of Benoit Pouliot. But if he blossoms into a real player, he’ll be a crucial and important piece of the puzzle for the Canadiens – a smooth skating, intelligent player with good hands, and thousands of little Danish kids will ask Father Christmas for skates and sticks at that special time of the year.

Maybe Lars Eller will put Denmark on the hockey map.