Ice hockey in Finland

(VOVWORLD) - Although ice hockey is not the Finnish national sport, it is by far the most popular sport when measured by attendances and by national television coverage. Despite the country’s tiny population, the Finns punch far above their weight on the international scene, and their national men’ team are one of the best. Today we will talk to Amir Degheidy, a Finnish who is enjoying his vacation in Vietnam to know more about ice hockey.

 Hoang Tung: Hello Amir, Welcome back to Culture Rendezvous. Can you tell me about the origin of Ice Hockey in Finland?

Amir: As far as I know, Ice hockey made its first appearance around 1920. In 1927, the Finnish Skating Association introduced ice hockey as part of its program and through that organization, Finland joined the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1928. The national team played in its first World Championship in 1939. However, our team was not very strong at that time. For a number of years, they had to be satisfied with placing fourth or fifth, as they could not steal a medal away from the Canadians, Russians, Swedes or Czechs. In spite of these setbacks, hockey continued to draw more and more fans and spectators. The passion for this sport had been born, and it quickly took its place in Finnish culture.

Hoang Tung: I think you would like to explain, roughly, how a hockey game is played, would you?

Amir: The objective of the game is your team score more goals than the opposing team. To score a goal, a player must hit a puck, a 4-inch disc of rubber, completely cross the goal line and into the goal. The ice surface is about 30m by 60m. An ice hockey game is started with 2 teams of 20, and 6 each on the ice at any time, consisting of 3 forwards, 2 defenders, and 1 goaltender. Substitutions are unlimited and can happen at any time during a match. The game is played in 3 20-minute periods. Players are equipped with a stick, a pair of skating shoes, and some protecting shoulder pads.

Ice hockey in Finland - ảnh 1The objective is to hit a puck through the goal line (Photo: Sportsnet) 

Hoang Tung: That sounds simple. How about rules?

Amir: Ice hockey is filled with things you can and can not do. If you break one of these rules, you will serve a time penalty, leaving your team under full strength. You will be called out for 2 minutes if you conduct a minor fault, including hooking, slashing, delay of game, tripping, elbowing, raising your stick intentionally too high, and checking from behind. More serious fouls will be punished by longer penalties, such as 5 minutes or 10 minutes, or even a penalty shot.

Hoang Tung: There was one time, I saw two players punching each other restlessly, blood sheds all over their face. Was that common in an ice hockey game?

Amir: I think nobody wants to fight in a game, because fighting will result in very serious consequences for the players and the teams. However, fans seem to encourage it, so that players can settle disputes. A fight in ice hockey is usually called as part of “The Code”. A bunch of strong men with sticks in their hands, travelling in high speed can have many issues with each other, and a fight is what they may need to ease the tension. When a fight begins, all remaining players will have to leave the ice. The two fighters can’t remove their helmets prior to the fight. However, no one has ever died or suffered serious injuries.

Ice hockey in Finland - ảnh 2Fighting in ice hockey (Photo:Ram Pages) 

Hoang Tung: Can you tell me about the Finland men’s hockey team?

Amir: Finland now is considered a member of the so-called "Big Six", the unofficial group of the six strongest men's ice hockey nations, along with Canada, United States, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden. The Finland’s team nickname, in Finnish, is Leijonat/Lejonen (The lion). It was established in 1939 in the Ice Hockey World Championship in Switzerland. In the 1995 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships, Finland achieved its first ever gold in international ice hockey. At the 2011 IIHF World Championship, Finland won its second World Championship, beating the Swedish national team by a score of 6–1.

Ice hockey in Finland - ảnh 3The Finland's team nickname in English is "The Lions" (Photo: Wikipedia)

Hoang Tung: Is hockey included in schools?

Amir: It’s part of our school system. When I was 8 or 9 years old, they taught us how to skate, in winter time of course, with the sticks and a goal. But I think it’s more suitable for boys, because girls are not very interested in ice hockey.

We have been talking with Amir Degheidy about Ice hockey, the most popular sport in Finland. Culture Rendezvous will be back next week with more cultural stories around the world. This is Hoang Tung. Goodbye.