Posts Tagged ‘Lokomotiv’

So that is it, a new champion has been crowned. During the time from October to now, someone could have conceived and given birth to a child. A 9 month ride is now behind us and the hockey season is officially over.


The 2011-2012 season, or rather the off season cast a dark shadow over the hockey world as we lost the likes of Wade Belak, Derek Boogard and Rick Rypien from the ranks. The entire hockey world was ground to a halt on September 17th 2011, when the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team lost its lives in a plane crash just before their opening game of the season.


The game itself is the best way to celebrate the lives of those we lost and what a ride it has been. I guess at the start of the season, no-one had pegged LA Kings and New Jersey Devils as the Stanley Cup finalists, but once again, hockey shows us why nothing is ever certain. There have been many upsets during the year and some great battles. Perhaps few of the most memorable ones of the season will be the Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers (and its accompanying HBO documentary) or the battle of Pennsylvania in the first round of the playoffs.


However, there was some doubt whether the European continent would be able to watch the season as the NHL kicked off the regular season with no TV deal in place for Europe and it wasn’t until a lot later on to October that things started to unfold and deals were put in place. For the Scandinavian/Nordic countries, the TV deal was quite sensational as they had the option to watch every single game if they so chose.


For the UK, the rights moved from ESPN America to Premier Sports. At first I was sceptical of Premier Sports’ capability and to be fair, it took the guys there some time to find their feet with the sport, but as the season went on, the coverage got better. The only thing that Premier Sports needs, is availability on the Virgin Media TV package as at the moment it is not an option. Also, the techie nerd in me wants the channel to get an HD channel to its ranks. All in all, I think they have done admirably well after getting started with no experience for hockey and covering ten games per week. Now that’s pretty good going for a non-hockey market TV channel.


On a team level, I think the Penguins are one of the most talked about teams of the season, even if they fell at the first round. If the season showed anything of the Penguins roster is that it is deep. With Sidney Crosby sidelined again for long period of time, Yevgeni Malkin pretty much single handedly put the team on his back and took a big leadership role. He was dominant the whole season and carried on dominating in the World Championships as well.


The other individual effort that probably came through this season was the emergence of Flyers’ Claude Giroux. The Flyers team was embattled and faced a lot of adversity with injuries and played without captain Chris Pronger the whole year. Giroux, despite his young age showed tremendous leadership and the play he showed through the Flyers’ playoff run was a true showing of what he is capable of. He is definitely one of the leagues’ brightest stars going forwards.


I can only say, what a season it has been. It has been (on most part) a fitting tribute to hockey and the thrills it provides. Right now, I think the two main benefactors of the season wrapping up is the family and my sleep rhythm as I don’t need to stay up till the early hours of the morning to watch games.  


I could wax poetic about the season and its nuances till the cows come home, but in the tired state, it is difficult to recall all the highlights and lowlights of the season. In either case, it’s only 52 days to go till the next puck drop and the season I follow starts with the traditional Pitsi Tournament in Finland.


Is it October yet?

So the IIHF World Championships have concluded and the champions have been crowned in Yevgeni Malkin… I mean Russia. Russia was the dominant team throughout the tournament and perhaps no player was as dominant as Malkin. Where Russia won, I thought it’s play wasn’t harmonious and at times it was disjointed, but thanks to strong individual players who WANT to play, game-play mistakes are easy to overcome.  Apart from Russia’s championship, I think the story of the games has been Slovakia. Last year in Bratislava, the games ended in tears when the Slovakian team ended up outside the medal games. Where as a Habs fan it might sound weird me saying this, but the gesture from Zdeno Chara after the game was classy. Wearing Pavol Demitra’s jersey to the medal ceremony was a really classy move.


Demitra undoubtedly was the Slovaks’ sixth player on the ice in each of their games. Causes like these are great to rally behind that can carry a team a long way. Demitra, who is a legend in Slovakian hockey, lost his life in the tragic plane accident that claimed the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team in September.


First off, let’s review the tickets, that have been talked about in the press and on my blog in great extent. From that point of view, it has been one of the most embarrassing World Championships I can remember. Watching the games via YouTube (I’ll get to that later) saw empty arenas in nearly all of the games in Helsinki and it wasn’t that great across the pond in Stockholm. I honestly think that the organisers of the games failed big time. Comparing to the games hosted in Slovakia last year, the TV coverage that I saw showed that the tournament was well publicised in the host towns, but judging by what I’ve seen on videos, there hasn’t really been that much in terms of visibility in Helsinki or Stockholm. Even one of the Russian players went on to say that these were the worst World Championships that he has played in.


Furthermore, a bit of an embarrasement, the organisers now have to get advice from Edmonton who arranged the World U-20 championships recently. Finland and Sweden aren’t exactly new to the hockey thing so it is embarrassing to say the least that they have to get help on how to make everything work. The scary prospect is that the two countries and the same organisers are in charge of arranging next years’ tournament as well. Hooray for another year of empty arenas and overpriced… well… overpriced EVERYTHING (€7 for a “pint”).


I do hope that the Finnish Ice Hockey Association is true to its word and guides the profits directly to junior development. It is in the grass roots where hockey has to be nurtured and talents developed. Additionally, though I know hockey isn’t the cheapest of sports to play, the Finns need to attract kids to start playing hockey as well and the sport shouldn’t be for the privileged, neither as a hobby or as a spectator sport.


But anyways, what did the games leave us with? Well there were some interesting games, who would have thought that one of the best round robin games was between France and Kazakhstan. In fact during round robin, it was the ‘smaller’ countries that provided more entertainment than any other game in the schedule, except maybe apart from USA vs Canada.


Speaking of Canada, I know my post about the Canadian team antics was read quite a few times, but I realised that the point that didn’t come across properly in it was the fact that I don’t have a problem with players going out during the tournament, it happens and as players we’ve all been there and done it. However, it was more the outburst that caught my attention. Other teams were seen in Helsinki nightlife and conducted themselves appropriately. Granted it was only a onetime thing and I guess the reason why Getzlaf’s and Perry’s exploits were followed closely is because the Ducks have been under a magnifying glass in Finland because of one Teemu Selanne. But let by gones be by gones and all that jazz. I could say many colourful things of what I think of Getzlaf as a captain of a team, but I will only say, I feel sorry for Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.


For me personally, the low point of the games was when the IIHF pulled the live YouTube broadcasts, hence why I reduced the amount of ‘ink’ and space I gave the IIHF.


That is something unheard of in sports broadcasting and I’m sure the IIHF has had a huge backlash from people all over the world. I had numerous conversations on Twitter and Facebook about the decision to pull the feeds and all were equally disappointed. The common factor among the comments was this: “Shame, I’ve never watched the world championships and I was quite enjoying it.” Or “What’s the point of watching them with 30 minute delay if I can get another stream from the Internet.” There you go IIHF. Even if you tried to protect the TV broadcast deals you talked about, people will find a way to watch the games live and un-interrupted. I really do hope that the IIHF figures this out. You have a year to do it. GET IT RIGHT!


The one thing that I do think that the games needed and it is something that I have been saying for years when talking about it with relatives and friends. Kalervo Kummola needs to move over from the helm at Finnish ice hockey. I have nothing against Kummola personally and if anything we should all be grateful for what he has done to Finnish hockey and the way he has cultivated the sport. But it is time to move over now. I feel that Kummola is past it and ‘not with the times’ anymore and that his views of the game and the way things should be done are somewhat archaic.


Kummola’s hockey resume is something to envy, but right now I feel that what would be best for Finnish hockey is to get some fresh blood in and get new views and expand our horizons further. Finland has a great legacy in hockey and the sport means a lot to the nation and I think now, if ever, would be time to mix things up a bit.


Personally, I don’t think Kummola’s successor has to be a someone with a background in hockey, but someone who can bring an innovative new way to develop players and who is not stuck in the same mindset as the current core of the powers that be.


With Russia now the reigning world champion’s we are waiting for another 365 before Sweden and Finland again host the games, with this time Sweden being the lead country for hosting. Good thing the organisers have already come out and said that they’ll review the ticket prices for next year. Oh, I do hope that they mean review the prices on basis of reducing them, not hiking them up even more.


Well, Finland’s dream of a double world championship are over, but at least the team is still playing for a medal. The game against Russia was encouraging. The team showed that it is capable of competing play-wise with a star studded Russian team. However, where I feel the Finnish team fell down on was on individual talent. If you have some one like Yevgeni Malkin snipe three goals at will you are in trouble.


Where I might’ve said some harsh things about the Penguins during the first round of the NHL playoffs, I have to admit that I have not seen a player as hungry as Malkin is right now. At the moment, his playing oozes the desire to win.


The reason why I am not overtly disappointed at the Finnish teams’ efforts is because the team went down with its boots on. The score 6-2, I feel, does not reflect the game on a playing level. Finland was the more dominant team across the first 30-35 minutes and I thought that until the 3-1 goal that the team had every chance to claw back. The body language of players said that they were there to fight to the end. However, it wasn’t until Malkin completed his hat-trick that the wheels fell off the bus. A 4-1 deficit is difficult to claw back from, not impossible, but difficult.


A couple of things that I was impressed with: Petri Kontiola’s game was probably the best he has ever played, or at least what I’ve seen him play. Same with Jesse Joensuu. I think as the tournament has gone on, he has elevated his game probably more than any other player on the Finnish team. It was his strong board play and relentless hustle that set up the Finnish first goal.


Petri Vehanen didn’t have one of his strongest games we’ve seen from him. Let’s not forget that Vehanen has been linked to a couple of NHL teams during the tournament (One of which is the Penguins). I don’t know whether the contract talk got his nerves going. Personally, I don’t see why Vehanen would go to the NHL. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great goalie when he is on top of his game, but he is what the hockey world would call a veteran. Then again, I’m always happy when a guy who has worked hard for his dream actually makes it, so from that point of view, it’d be great to see Vehanen make it.


Whilst we’re on the topic of goalies. Today’s game against Russia sets up an interesting dilemma: Ride Vehanen or go with the back-up, Karri Ramo. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Vehanen will play tomorrow. Jalonen is unlikely to throw a guy in the net who hasn’t played a minute in the tournament. Ramo is a capable goalie, but I think that Jalonen will stick to his guns and ride Vehanen rather than risk putting Ramo in goal. What he should’ve done though was to put Ramo in goal for the 3rd period in the Russia game. By that time the Finns would’ve had nothing to lose. It’s OK to say this in hindsight, but there you go.


One of the things that has been, shall we say, ridiculous has been the refereeing. Not only in the Finland vs Russia game, but across the entire tournament. There were a couple of calls the refs missed in the game and then called a few things that they did call, but wouldn’t have been worthy of penalties. Where Malkin went down I don’t think should’ve been a penalty. I’ve watched the play again and again, and Malkin goes down on his own as opposed to the Finnish player tripping him, as the refs interpreted.


Despite the loss tonight and the disappointment of it to the team, I’m sure that the Finns will come out and want to win the bronze on home soil. Though I think as a team, the guys want to go out with a win as it is officially the end of the season fro them all.


A quick word about the other finalist. I’m really happy for the Slovakian’s. Their last tournament was a disaster to say the least, but they have come through as the underdogs and I’m sure the guys will be relishing every moment. There’s no doubt that the Slovakian team has a 6th player with them on every shift in Pavol Demitra, whose jersey is hanging in the Slovakian changing room. For those who don’t know, Demitra was among the victims who perished in the Lokomotiv air disaster in September.

Well the wait is finally over. The puck has dropped and the season is under way. I think I’ve been looking forward to this ever since the doctors cleared me to play after the concussion. The thought of not being able to play really re-ignited my love for the game again and definitely made me work hard during the summer.

As most of the hockey world knows, this off season has been really dark for the hockey community. With the deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard over the summer and of course the devastating loss of the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team. It wasn’t an easy wake up this morning, after receiving a news alert to say that the surviving player Alex Galimov had passed away due to the injuries he sustained in the crash. I had held out hope that Galimov would pull through, despite the grave injuries he received. Never the less he put up one hell of a fight.

No matter what level you play this game at, losses like the ones mentioned above are terrible. Even if we don’t know the players on a personal level, we’ve all watched them play and admired their skills they’ve displayed on the ice and the moments of jubilation they have provided to the fans of the game. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what the players’ families and friends are going through, but looking at the pictures and videos from the memorial services around the globe, the loss is visibly heart breaking.I’ve read stories that have reduced me to tears and seen fans remember the players in a way that has brought a smile to my face, not because the stories were funny, but because they were so touching and you could tell how much the game and the guys meant to people all around the world.

As we started our season, we respected those who lost their lives and remembered their families in the Yaroslav plane crash and the 9/11 disaster by a minutes silence. Personally I was touched by the rink falling totally silent for a minute as we paid our respects to the lives lost. To me, it doesn’t matter what level of the game we play the game, we are all part of the same hockey community and regardless of skills or ability, the reasons why we play the game are much the same.

In closing, my thoughts go out to the victims’ families and friends at this difficult time.

Our first game was something that we wanted to skate away with a W under our belts and that we did. We played an amazing first period in the game took command early on. We were hungry to win this game since it was our first game of the year and given that our last season’s games ended in us losing both of them.


There are lots of positives we can all take away from the game, though we did take our foot off the gas in the third. Hockey is a 60 minute game (or 65 if you’re lucky enough to play overtimes) so the work ethic must be there throughout the game. But after all it was the first game of the year. Yet we can’t use that as an excuse as teams we will be facing from now on will have games under their belts and will probably get the wind of our success. I’m not taking anything away from the team, but we have to work hard moving forwards. The win was awesome no bones about it!


Personally I enjoyed playing, up until midway through the second when my skates started chewing my feet to bits. As I write I’ve got blisters on both my feet and they feel puffy. The skates have been on their way out. Looking at prices for new skates, they cost more than our fridge freezer! Seriously!!! For the money some of these skates retail at I’m hoping they cook me my breakfast and serve it in my bed.


There’s some exciting stuff coming up on this blog so keep your eyes peeled. I’m looking to do some video blogging, which will probably scare off the readers as they’ll have to look at my ugly mug.