Discover more from Hockey Wanderlüst
Hockey Wanderlüst - March 25
It's a great day for hockey ... from Sollentuna to St. Paul
The Estonian Hurricane
Women’s Playoff Weekend
Top Notch Tampere Tech’! (with or without sausage?)
European NHL Players Lighting it Up
DEL Top-10 - Video Extravaganza!
Playoffs? We want Playoffs …
Name the Logo Contest
Holy moly, this is your chance to …
The Estonian Hurricane
While the hockey season 2020-21 will be remembered for many unusual things, Finnish hockey fans may have to add something they’ve never seen to the list.
An Estonian player winning the league goal scoring title.
Jyväskylä JYP’s forward Robert Rooba has scored 26 goals in 51 games this season, shattering his personal record (17) from two years ago. That’s enough for runner-up, two goals behind Sebastian Wennström with approximately ten games remaining.
Rooba, now 27, was only 14 when the Estonian under-18 national team’s Finnish coach Hannu Järvenpää suggested the talented kid go on a tryout in Espoo, Finland, on the other side of the Gulf of Finland.
“My Dad was assistant to Hannu who had the contacts with Espoo. And from Tallinn, Helsinki is also the easiest to get to,” he explains. Espoo borders Helsinki, while Tallinn is a two-hour ferry ride away from the Finnish capital.
“When they saw me play, they suggested I try out for the better team in Espoo, and when I made that team, we made a decision to move to Finland,” Rooba told Hockey Wanderlüst over the phone.
The “we” means Robert and his father Jüri. Robert’s mother, Agi, stayed behind. Her job was too good to be sacrificed. Jüri took the first job he could find, as a cab driver.
Robert thrived. The year after their move, he played in the under-18 and under-20 tournaments as well as the men’s Division 1 Worlds, and made his Liiga debut in 2012.
However, in his 117 games over five seasons with the Blues, he only scored six goals and 12 points, and when Blues was relegated from Liiga in 2016, Rooba signed with JYP.
The change in scenery meant a change in his game. He’s hit double-digit goal totals in each of his last four seasons.
“The explanation? I’ve worked hard and I’ve got a bigger role, more ice time,” says Rooba who’s averaged 19 minutes a game this season.
“I’ve always believed that I have potential. This season, I’ve found great chemistry with Jerry Turkulainen and Antti Kalapudas, and with goals comes better confidence, which leads to more goals, it’s an old story.”
Rooba, whose father was the Estonian national team general manager until last year, is proud to be an ambassador for hockey in Estonia.
“I want to show young players back home that if you’re willing to work hard and make tough, but right decisions, even an Estonian player can make a career in hockey,” he says.
“I still want to take another step in my career. I’m just hitting my prime.”
Estonia’s top league, Coolbet Hokiliiga, has four teams. There are 120 male adult players and as many female players in the country. Toivo Suursoo, the Detroit Red Wings’ 11th round pick in 1994 (283th overall) is the only Estonian-born and trained player to get drafted to the NHL. (Leo Komarov, 6th round to Toronto in 2006, was born in Estonia to Russian parents and moved to Finland at age 5. He holds Russian and Finnish citizenship.)
Slap Shot …
In a New York Times opinion piece this week, current US Senator and president and CEO of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee in 2002, Mitt Romney, spoke out about why the US shouldn’t boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics. After pointing out reasons why China “deserves our condemnation”, he went on to say this:
“Moreover, if an athlete boycott is meant to influence the behaviour of the home country or delegitimize its government, it probably won’t work. When President Jimmy Carter applied an athlete boycott to the Moscow Olympics in 1980, the result was more medals for Russians and dashed dreams for American athletes. No one seriously believes it improved Soviet behaviour.”
Women’s Playoff Weekend
Financing and Politics: the two things that have kept women’s professional hockey from truly gaining a foothold in North America. This weekend, it’s all set aside. Bolstered by a sponsorship boost from Discover Card, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) will hold its four-team playoffs Friday and Saturday with live coverage on NBC Sports Network. Kate Scott will commentate the action with analysis from two-time Olympic medalist AJ Mleczko and ice level reporting from Casey Chelios.
The Isobel Cup semi’s on Friday will feature the Toronto Six against the Boston Pride followed by the Minnesota Whitecaps versus the Connecticut Whale. Saturday’s final will begin at 7 pm eastern. The original February dates were dashed because of Covid concerns.
“Giving our athletes the platform to finish what they started in a safe environment, to make history, is what matters most,” NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia told NBC Sports.
Is it a blip, or a legitimate step in the right direction? It definitely provides exposure for a sport that has been damaged by cross-border competition and internal political struggles. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) for a period of time featured teams from both the US and Canada and many of the world’s finest players. It’s prime years were from 2010 to 2017 - it folded in 2019 after an experiment with an expansion team in China. Overlapping in 2015, the start-up US-based NWHL brought competition for players, sponsors, and potential attention and support from the NHL.
Women’s hockey peaks during the Olympics, with compelling action and nationalistic rivalries, particularly between the US and Canada, bringing it plenty of extra eyeballs. Its next opportunity to truly “cash in” will come out of the 2022 Beijing Games. No one in the sport will argue with the formula: get everyone in both countries on the same page, with organizational and financial support from the NHL if possible, and find more sponsors like Discover to foot the bill. With proper marketing and messaging, regardless of crowd sizes, a league could survive and potentially flourish. Just maybe it begins with the NWHL playoffs this weekend.
Top Notch Tampere Tech’ … but what about the Sausages?
For more than two decades, hockey has been a key driver for multi-purpose sports arena development across Europe, from Hamburg to Prague, St. Petersburg to Bratislava, and of course Helsinki, where the modern trend was started by former Jokerit owner Harry Harkimo in 1997, when Hartwall Arena opened its doors to host the IIHF World Championship.
And now, tervetuloa (welcome) Uros Live Arena, the latest and greatest rink in European hockey, due for delivery in Tampere, Finland later this year. The arena is named after Uros, a mobile communications and Internet of Things company.
The arena is built on the Tampere Deck, which sits over the main railroad hub – a concept familiar to New York Rangers’ fans – and it’ll have a hockey capacity of 13,180. There will also be an adjacent hotel, casino and restaurants, along with digital infrastructure throughout.
The digital platform will position the venue as an industry leader in the use of tech for fan engagement and dynamic entertainment according to Mika Sulin, senior consultant for Uros Live Arena, who has led ten other European arena projects dating back to Hartwall in 1997.
“We are building a unique venue that will integrate into the ‘smart city’ of Tampere. Everything at Uros Live Arena is hyper-focused on the customer journey from the downtown rail site, to the world-class architecture and energy and environmental standards,” Sulin says.
Uros Live aims to promote some 150 events annually and they are gearing up to play host to the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
In December, Liiga teams Tappara and Ilves will vacate their current home, the historic Hakametsä arena, originally built for the 1965 Worlds as Finland’s first indoor rink.
With decades of history, Hakametsä is also home to a truly special hockey culinary offering: the region’s famous mustamakkara blood sausages.
Will they make the trip cross-town to the new arena? We’ll have to wait and see. According to Sulin, now that the beer deal is done (including a range of domestic and international offerings through a partnership with Hartwall) they can now focus on the sausages.
We’re betting they make the cut!
For the first time since the 1940’s, a professional hockey team in North America featured an all-black forward line. History happened this past Sunday with the American Hockey League’s Ontario (California) Reign taking on the Bakersfield Condors.
As the “Soul On Ice - The Podcast” tweeted:
“History being made tonight. Not since the Black Aces have we seen an all-Black line in pro hockey. Herb Carnegie, Ozzie Carnegie and Manny McIntyre are shining down on Devante Smith-Pelly, Quinton Byfield, and Akil Thomas tonight. The line already has a goal in the 1st. #History #SoulOnIce”
And speaking of hashtags, the trailblazer Herb Carnegie has been the subject of many lately, as in #HerbfortheHall. Before Willie O’Ree, a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in 2018, broke the NHL colour barrier, Carnegie was a star and a three-time Quebec senior league MVP for the Quebec Aces. Discrimination ultimately prevented him from making the “national league” and he refused a New York Rangers’ minor league contract. Carnegie later started hockey’s first diversity program, The Future Aces Hockey School. His daughter Bernice, who continues to help run her late-father’s program, told Hockey Wanderlust about dad deserving the Hall:
“He certainly opened opportunities that made it possible for those who have come after, like Willie, to have that chance. And Willie is very special to our family as well, he was a friend of the family eventually, and I get to talk to him every once in awhile. And I’m so thrilled actually with the work that he’s doing because in many ways it emulates what my father was doing in those early years of working with young people. So bravo to Willie, I’m so happy to see the recognition that is coming to him because he certainly deserves it.”
Showing humility and generosity, to go with the Future Aces creed which includes respect, tolerance, diversity, and sportsmanship.
1. Red Hot NHL Europeans - March 17 to March 24
(Three of the top 5 NHL scorers this week are Europeans, as are four of the top 5 goalies)
(PPP - power play points, P/GP - points per game)
Mika Zibanejad - (NYR) Sweden - 4 GP, 4G, 5A, 9 PTS, +7, 1 PPP, 2.25 P/GP
Gabriel Landeskog - (COL) Sweden - 4 GP, 3G, 6A, 9 PTS, +5, 3 PPP, 2.25 P/GP
Mikko Rantanen (COL) - Finland - 4 GP, 5G, 3A, 8PTS, +7, 1 PPP, 2.00 P/GP
Pavel Buchnevich - (NYR) Russia - 4 GP, 3G, 4A, 7 PTS, +7, 0 PPP, 1.75 P/GP
Philipp Grubauer - (COL) Germany - 3 GP, 3W, 0L, 0.67 GAA, .974 Save%
2. DEL Highlights
Yes, Goalie Hannibal Weitzmann is at it again …
#9 The Augsburger Panther defenceman Scott Valentine’s bomb from the point.
#7 The Fischtown Pinguins Miha Verlič has an open net in front of him, but Straubing Tigers’ Sebastian “Basti” Vogl get across the crease to deny him.
#3 Kölner Haie’s Hannibal Weitzmann looks to be without a chance but he gets back just in time to shut the door on the WolfsburgGrizzlys’ Pekka Jormakka.
3. Craving Playoffs … ?
Just so you know:
The KHL (Russia) is already well into the 2nd round of the Gagarin Cup
The Czech Extraliga Quarterfinals could end with two games scheduled this evening. Sparta has a 3-0 lead in games on Olomouc while Trinec holds the same over Brno. Liberec and Mlada Boleslav have already advanced to the semi-finals.
Slovakia Extraliga is in the initial play-in round. The top six seeds are awaiting to see the winners of (7) Trencin vs. (10) Bystrica and (8) Kosice vs (9) Nove Zamky
The SHL (Sweden) finishes its regular season on April 3rd.
The Liiga (Finland) season wraps up on April 13th. A handful of games this past week have been postponed due to Covid protocols.
The Swiss National League season is supposed to end April 5th. They are also dealing with previous postponements.
The Penny-DEL (Germany) regular season plays through April 18th
4. Name the LOGO: (answer Sunday)
5. Answer to Sunday’s quiz:
The Question: Wayne Gretzky led the National Hockey League in scoring in the 1980’s with 1,842 points. A European player was the NHL’s second-leading scorer for the decade. Who was it?
The Answer: Peter Stastny, then of Czechoslovakia, was 2nd with 1,059 points for the decade, finishing just ahead of another European, Jari Kurri of Finland with 1,043. Stastny would be Slovakian as of 1993 when the country peacefully split, having been born, raised, and trained in Bratislava. He also added Canadian citizenship during the 1980’s. He spent the decade with the Quebec Nordiques and was traded to New Jersey on March 6, 1990 for Craig Wolanin and future considerations.
See you on Sunday.
Enjoy the hockey action !