Posts Tagged ‘Jukka Jalonen’


The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships are just around the corner. In the host nation the anticipation for the games is at its peak. The reigning world champions are hosting the games with Sweden and Finland is ranked at number one at the IIHF rankings. Not bad for a nation of 5.5million and who have only won the world championship twice and is eagerly waiting for its first Olympic gold medal (no pressure guys).

 

However, one thing that has actually hit me quite hard after reading an open letter by the editor of the Finnish Urheilulehti. The editor, Esko Seppanen, criticises the Finnish Ice Hockey association’s chief, Kalervo Kummola over the pricing policy of the games.

 

I have seen stories written about the high priced tickets at the games, but the letter written by Seppanen really hits the nail on the head.  In a letter published in Urheilulehti on 26.04 and the magazine’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150772714449851&set=a.10150689498594851.420270.358693599850&type=1) Seppanen writes “Dear Mr. Kummola, You have deserted the Finnish hockey fans with your extortionate ticket prices. You have shown that the fans do not matter in your money making scheme.” (see translation of the letter at the end of this post)

Harsh words on the eve of the games in a nation that has seen a huge boost in hockey since last years’ World Championship finals. In fact, the hockey boom was evident in nearly every news outlets’ reporting. The local professional league Sm-Liiga was covered more widely than ever before and attendance was up, not to mention the emergence of some of the greatest young talents the Finnish hockey system has produced in years! Even the NHL was covered to the point that it didn’t matter whether a team had any Finns on its roster. This maybe a slight over exaggeration, but this years’ coverage has been a real pleasure to follow and it feels like for the first time in years that hockey is generating discussions around the water cooler again.

 

While I have been relying mainly on the news papers and Twitter to get a feel of the preparations to the games, it would appear that the marketing effort for the games has not focussed on the ticket sales, but rather to push TV packages to watch the games from the comfort of your home. In his letter  Seppanen calls out this fact by stating “The tournament in Helsinki starts next Friday. Mr. Kummola, have you seen a single advert that sells tickets to the games? No, you haven’t. Neither have I, or anyone else for that matter. What have we seen? Buy this super-turbo-mega package of channels. Watch the games from your couch! Better yet! Upgrade to a HD-Package”

 

Every time I visit Finland, I am confused of the TV packages and what provider offers what channels and what bolt-ons one would have to buy to get the channels that show hockey. Trust me, I feel sometimes feel like you need a degree in astro-physics to make sure that you get all the games. What I have learnt is that in Finland Nelonen Pro shows the NHL. For the World Championships the TV rights for the games were sold to MTV3 from Yle (think of Yle like the Finnish BBC). With MTV, I have no idea what channel in its vast plethora of pay to view channels the games are going to be shown on. It is incredibly confusing. Imagine if you are a tourist and want to catch a game in your hotel room. Chances are the hotel doesn’t have the channel on its channel list, or then there is the option of calling reception to ask what channel a game is on, go to a bar to watch it, or just simply give up.  

 

But what of the ticket prices themselves then? One would like to think that Finland being the reigning champion and the games being hosted in Finland (and Sweden) that the prices would be competitive and comparative to the other World Championship tournaments. Well, according to the letter by Seppanen a family of five would have to pay €1000 ($1,320) to go see Finland vs France. A THOUSAND Euros for Finland vs France. Comparatively, tickets to Canada vs USA would cost €196 ($258) and the semi-final would cost from €175 ($231) to €226 ($298), though I have seen a tweet of someone getting a ticket for the afore mentioned CAN-USA game for €40.

 

I need to take a breather here as I’m about to faint from just looking at that. How can a family of five afford a €1000 in this economy to go watch hockey, not to mention all the other expenditure (parking, refreshments, merchandise etc etc) associated with a trip to a hockey game. To some the €1000 is half of their monthly salary, if not all of their monthly salary. As Seppanen points out in his letter, it would be cheaper for that family of five to go watch the Champions’ League Final in Munich than to go watch Finland play France.

In fact just to put it into perspective, I saw someone tweet earlier in the week that in 1998 when Finland last hosted the World Championship, they were able to buy a ticket to the final in the black market for €90. That’s cheap for a ticket to the finals… on the black market. I dread to think what a single ticket on the black market would cost to go see the 2012 finals. And yet, Kummola has the audacity to wonder why the tickets aren’t selling as expected, or proclaim that the prices are on par with NHL regular season game prices. Well, him and his peers have set the prices and it’s too late to back out now.

If I was to go and watch the games in my native Finland, I would have to shell about €250-300 on flights alone and then pay almost the same to go watch Finland play France? Give me a break. I love my hockey, I really do, but there has to be a line somewhere. For those kinds of prices, I’m expecting that I would be treated like a royal.

I would rather use that money and go on holiday somewhere. At least the holiday would last longer than  60 minutes.

I really do feel bad for hockey fans in Finland and those foreign fans who have paid a top dollar to fly over to support their nation in the games. It is a huge expenditure just to watch a few games, not to mention the fact that Helsinki isn’t exactly the cheapest capital city in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I like Helsinki, but it is expensive.

I really can’t help but feel that these games are for the elite and that there is a them and us mentality between the organisers and the fans. It is almost like a throwback to the good old days of societal class structure. I’m sure there are fans who will pay tooth and nail to go see the games, but my mind boggles at how someone can seriously think that the pricing structure for the games is fair? To be honest, if I was in Finland, I would rather go to a bar to watch the games than shell out money for an additional TV package or one of the ludicrously priced tickets

 

I fear that the cheapest way to watch the games for any fan would be to buy their nations’ game package from the IIHF website, hook their laptop to their TV and put the radio on for commentary. That’s what I’ll have to resort to as there is no way that I can justify spending what would be probably two month’s wages to go watch some hockey, or less if I just wanted to soak up the atmosphere.

I don’t know whether we’ll see a colourful cavalcade of fans at the games, like we are used to with the World Championships, due to these prices or whether we will have arenas full of men in suits. I for one want to see people decked out in quirky outfits and that dude dressed in the cat costume drinking a (blow up) bottle of Fisherman’s Friend flavoured vodka.

Seppanen sums up three key facts that the organisers have done well and I have to agree with him. “Mr. Kummola, you have succeeded in three things: 1. You started to cash in on the national pride, which died at the collective level really quickly. 2. You abandoned your core fans. Those fans who lived vicariously with the Finnish team throughout the whole 2011 World Championships have been ruthlessly cut off. 3. You have turned our home games into a neutral event, where the home team has no advantage on its side as the stands have been turned into venues for the games’ corporate partners.”

 

Seppanen fires off a great finish to his letter by stating “I know that you don’t care Mr. Kummola. But the Finnish hockey fan does care!”

I hope that the games will be entertaining and that people will fill the arenas as otherwise the games might go down in history, and not in a good way. My fear is that this will leave a massive brown, smelly stain on the Finnish hockey credibility if the games are not sold out. Could you imagine either the semi-final or final that would be played to a nearly empty arena?

 

Thanks to Esko Seppanen at Urheilulehti (www.urheilulehti.fi and http://www.urheilulehti.fi/jaakiekko/leijona-liput-hapeallisen-kalliita-kummola-vaihtoi-aidot-faninsa-kylmasti-rahaan) for permitting me to quote and paraphrase his article. You can follow Seppanen on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/EskoSeppanen (tweets mainly in Finnish). Also thanks to Teemu Lindfors (https://twitter.com/#!/TeemuLindfors) and Jan Johansson (https://twitter.com/#!/JanPPa) for ticket price information.

The letter translated:

 

Dear Kalervo Kummola,

 

You have shockingly abandoned the Finnish hockey fans with the ticket prices at the World Championships. You have coldly shown that the fans mean nothing in this money making scheme.

You have also shown, that ticket sales are just a part of the whole concept. Mr. Kummola, if we are honest, ticket sales have nothing to do with the games. It is only a plus in your cash flow at the end of the games. Look around you and you’ll understand.

The tournament in Helsinki starts next Friday (4th May). Have you, Mr. Kummola, seen a SINGLE advertisement that would sell TICKETS to the tournament itself? No, no you haven’t. Neither have I – or anyone else for that matter. What have we seen?

Buy this super-turbo-mega package of channels. Watch the games from your couch! Better yet! Upgrade to a HD-Package! (It is perverse that these adverts are displayed at Hartwall Arena, and there is not a word that would push sales of tickets!)

This is what we have seen, however, perhaps more now than at any other point in time in the Finnish sporting history. Regardless of what Finnish website you visit, you will see advertisements for the TV packages. You will not see a single advertisement that would encourage you to buy tickets to see a game.

 

How can this be Mr. Kummola?

 

When you shrewdly out-priced the “people” out of your games, you are in the position where you can sell your TV packages for prices that don’t look half bad to the average consumer. If a family of five went to your friends’ Arena to watch Finland – France match, the head of the family would have to pay over a thousand euros for lower level seats! And you have the audacity to wonder why the tickets aren’t selling like hot cakes.

 

Did I forget to mention that the TV Package providers are the biggest sponsors of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association?

 

Your goal was never to allow the average income fans to the games at all. That is why you have bolted the doors shut to the average Joe at the Arena. You know full well that the family of five’s wallet will choose the TV package rather than pays a THOUSAND euros for ONE Finland – France match. Unbelievable.

 

 

Mr. Kummola, you have succeeded in three things: 1. You started to cash in on the national pride, which died at the collective level really quickly. 2. You abandoned your core fans. Those fans who lived vicariously with the Finnish team throughout the whole 2011 World Championships have been ruthlessly cut off. 3. You have turned our home games into a neutral event, where the home team has no advantage on its side as the stands have been turned into venues for the games’ corporate partners

 

This letter will carry on in the Urheilulehti World Championships special, which goes on sale on the 26th of April.

 

I know Mr. Kummola, that you do not care. But the Finnish hockey fan does care!

For the love of sports

 

Esko Seppanen, Urheilulehti


Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Granlund’s and this article is not to criticise him, but rather look at how he has coped since rising to stardom in his native Finland.

 

Mikael Granlund, the supremely talented Finnish forward, has seen more column inches than any Finnish hockey player not playing in the NHL in recent years, or dare I say it decades. Granlund was known as a promising player and had garnered some international attention prior to his 9th overall draft pick by the Minnesota Wild.

 

It wasn’t until the 2011 World Championships that Mikael Granlund played himself to the knowledge of the entire hockey world and at the same time cursed himself with the amazing air-hook goal he scored against Russia in the semi-finals. I write cursed himself, only because it seems to be the only thing the Finnish media has been asking him for the past year and every time someone somewhere scores a similar goal and it goes viral, the press and in particular the tabloid press, pick up on it and say “Better airhook goal than Granlund’s.”

 

Yes Mikael Granlund is a super talent, and one like Finland has not had in a long while. He is a legitimate player that can bring something to the table at Minnesota right off the bat. Where he is not (yet) physically the size of some of the other players he will be playing against, he showed his fearlessness and determination in the Russia game in the World Championships when he finished hits against players such as Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuck. The only downside I can see with Granlud’s stature is that whether he will be able to take the hits in the NHL.

 

I’m not taking anything away from the professionals in the Finnish league, but I’m going to stick my neck out there and say that the NHL is far more physical and the hits far harder than they are in the SM-Liiga and how Granlund will cope with that remains to be seen. Let’s not forget that he has a history of concussion and missed significant amount of time last year when he mistimed a hit and crashed into the boards head first.

 

The latest topic of discussion around Granlund around the SM-Liiga playoffs has been whether or not he is tired. The young man has been used for PR duties and he has also played the world juniors, where he got a lot of criticism of his missed penalty shot at the crucial time. Hero one minute, villain the next. As a captain of the team, Granlund shouldered the responsibility of the loss, but it looked like it was all becoming too much for him.

 

Granlund has also missed a lot of time with the flu and as a result missed almost the latter part of the regular season and has only returned for the playoffs. After such a long time off with a persistent disease, Granlund has not been at his optimal level as has been pointed out by many hockey journalists in Finland.

 

After the playoffs eventually come to an end for HIFK, Granlund who was second in the point scoring race in the league, will likely be chosen to play for Team Finland in the World Championships. There’s nothing wrong with being chosen for the team, its just that the games are in Finland. After last years’ triumph I can expect that the media will be on the players like piranhas and every move will be scrutinised on the ice by respectable journalists and those who are only looking for stories on how drunk the players got and what Miss Finland contestant they are dating. My advice to the latter would be not to bother. You’ll do a bigger favour to the team by staying at home and let the team do what they are there to do; play hockey.

 

In nearly every video interview I’ve seen of Granlund of late, he is visibly agitated by the interviews as he has to answer same questions over and over again “Something something about airhook goal?” “How tired are you?” “How much fun is it to play hockey”. I can only expect that the media interest will get higher as the games get closer and Granlund is already losing some amount of sleep over it. The kid is under huge pressure, specially if he is chosen for the World Championships team. The coach Jukka Jalonen has been good on the front that he hasn’t overloaded Granlund with the (in my view) insignificant Euro Hockey Tour games.

 

Which actually leaves Jalonen with a tricky call. Name Granlund to the team even if he is tired and still recovering from the flu bug and not at peak condition, or leave him out and give him time to rest. If the latter, Jalonen might be crucified by the fans and if MG is not at 100% shape, will the fans and so on crucify him for playing sub par?

Granlund has always been a level headed player and is so much fun to watch on the ice. In fact, looking at pictures or videos of him on the ice, show that he is truly happy to be out there. There are no outside distractions and its just pure enjoyment for hockey. To me there are more brilliant plays than the airhook goal. Granted some of the moves/plays have not lead to a goal, but the kid is not afraid to try something new. He is super creative on the ice.

 

As and when he does make the move to the NHL, and if the Minnesota Wild website is anything to go by, he will be in the show next season. There will be media interest from the local press as well as that on a national scale, but Granlund, to a greater extent is an unknown in the league. Sure people have seen what he is capable of, but he is still a rookie in the league.

 

For some reason, I have a feeling that Granlund will actually relish the move across the pond, if for nothing else, he wouldn’t have to answer any more inane questions about the damn airhook goal.


16 years is a long time to wait. In that 16 years a small nation has come close several times. There has been the World Cup Of Hockey, Olympic games, several world championships, all accompanied by bitter disappointment. But on one fine Sunday in May, that all changed.

If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about, I’m talking about the Finnish victory in the World Championships over Sweden. I have to admit that when I first saw the roster for the games, I was not willing to bet any money on Finland. The past few years had been weak performance wise and it had been somewhat painful to watch the Finns play. I had, however, always agreed with the game plan that the coach Jukka Jalonen had drawn up, but I did think that if he didn’t get into the medal games, his days would be numbered.

I remember watching in frustration when the Finns took on Latvia, then Czechs and even later on Germans. After the Germany game, I was ready to write an article titled, “Finnish ice hockey on life support” and had planned to follow that up with an article, should the Finns have been knocked out early, titled “Finnish ice hockey: An obituary.” I’m happy that I haven’t had to write those articles… yet.

But after the Germany game, something changed. The players wearing the Lion emblem on their shirts became a team. There was something that was good to watch and there was some real guts in the play that I felt had been missing since the start. As we played the Russians in the semi finals, I was first captivated by the performance put on by a ‘no-frills’ Finnish team (not to take anything away from the Finns, but Ovechkin, Kovalchuck and co are bigger names). It was particularly amusing watching that game how the Finns completely shut down the big Russian forwards. And then of course, there was THE goal.

I’m not going to mull over Mikael Granlund’s Lacrosse move, but I will say this: The news coverage I’ve seen has been kids talking about and practising the move. It’s all well and good kids. Be creative with the game, but do not forget to pay more attention to your shot selection and play. Chances are you will not ever get a chance to score a goal like Granlund did in a proper game.

The final was a thing of beauty and to watch it in a Bar in London (Thanks to the owner of the Pipeline Bar for putting on the game and acting as a brilliant host). I lost my voice cheering the Finns on and along with many fellow countrymen, we all felt relieved as Mikko Koivu hoisted the trophy. The long wait was over. I was 13 when Finland last won the title, so it has been a long time coming.

The celebrations have caused somewhat of a stir, due to various members appearing drunk in live interviews, falling off the plane and not showing up for the public celebration. I have no problem with celebrating the win with alcohol, hell I’ve been there, done it and got the T-shirt for winning competitions on a much lower scale than the World Championship.

The truth is, it mattered to the players and rightly so, they have deserved their party. But I do have a problem with the rush of organising the celebrations. Less than 24 hours after winning the title, the players were rushed in front of the adoring public still in the best party mode from the night before. We all have seen coach Pasi Nurminen being helped off the plane and then falling on the red carpet. Sure people think “he’s just celebrating it”, but when you take a step back, it does look embarrassing.

The teams’ management had no control over the team in the events leading to the public celebration. If I was in charge, I would’ve made sure that I had a handful of people that were allowed to speak to the media and I would have left Nurminen on the plane until everyone else had gotten off and whisked him to sleep it off while no-one was watching. I would have stuck someone to tail Anssi Salmela to make sure he didn’t say anything moronic and I would’ve sent Timo Jutila to sleep it off as well. If there were questions (like there has been) about the whereabouts of the personnel, I would’ve been honest and said that “they are resting for the benefit of the team.”

However, there were members of the team that conducted themselves well, despite the amount of alcohol they had consumed. Mikko Koivu was exemplary, yes he had been drinking, but he was not slurring his words (much) and spoke like a true captain. Also coach Jukka Jalonen handled himself respectfully. Other players such as Niko Kapanen, Janne Pesonen and Mikael Granlund acted like real professionals. Should the party have been delayed by 24 hours and let the team return in peace, we might have seen a different team on stage.

But that’s enough about that. Main thing is that we have captured a world championship title once more and it is great to see what the sport of hockey and the success on an international stage means to our nation. I guess you could say that about any other sport and it’s importance to us Finns. However, I’m going to say this and I don’t mean to take anything away from the team who won the title. This does not reflect on the true state of Finnish hockey.

We are on the right path with developing young players, but we are still a couple of years off the pace of the Canadians and so on. We have a pool of talented players and proven veterans, but we are not in a position where we can take our eye off the ball, like we have done, and say everything is OK, we are champions.

What I also hope that this championship will do to hockey in Finland is that it will encourage kids to take up hockey and for parents to actively support their kids hobby. It can lead to great things and hockey can teach kids many values and make them better people. Any sports will, not just hockey.

People will also need to be realistic moving forwards. It is unlikely that we will win the title two years running, but I do hope that we won’t have to wait for another 16 years for the trophy to be in Finnish possession. For now, let’s be happy that we have won and we can call ourselves world champions once again.