Finland

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Finland
Flag of Finland.svg.png
Continent Europe
Population 5,404,956
Registered players 65,251
Referees 52
Rinks 276
National teams Men's
Women's
Junior
Women's U18
National federation Finnish Ice Hockey Association
IIHF since February 10, 1928
IIHF ranking 2
Top league Liiga
Current champion Oulun Kärpät


Finland is a country in Northern Europe. Helsinki is the capital and largest city.

Overview

National Teams

Domestic Teams

See Category:Ice hockey teams in Finland

Arenas

See Category:Arenas in Finland

Competitions

Competition Founded Folded Notes
Liiga 1975 - Top-level national competition
Mestis 2000 - Second-level national competition
Suomi-sarja 2000 - Third-level national competition
2. Divisioona 1975 (2000) - Fourth (formerly third)-level competition
3. Divisioona - Fifth-level national competition
4. Divisioona - Sixth-level national competition
5. Divisioona - Seventh-level national competition
SM-sarja 1928 1975 Defunct top-level competition
I-Divisioona 1974 2000 Defunct second-level competition
Suomi-sarja (1960-1974) 1960 1974 Defunct second-level competition
Maakuntasarja 1947 1974 Defunct third-level competition
Perussarja ~1960 ~1974 Defunct fourth-level competition
Finnish Workers' Sports Federation 1947 1984 Defunct workers competition
Naisten SM-sarja 1982 - Top-level women's competition
Finnish junior competitions - Various junior competitions

History of hockey in Finland

For more information on the early years, please see Bandy and Ice Hockey in Finland (1894-1930).

Bandy was first played in Vyborg (now a part of Russia) as far back as 1899. Training sessions in ice hockey were also staged in the Pohjoisranta area of Helsinki, kick-started by professor Leonard Borgstrom. The Suomen Urheilulehti offered the following description: "The new ice sport is called hockey. The players divided into two groups of skaters on the ice and hit the puck with sticks trying to get it into their opponent's goal, two poles over one meter high set one and a half meters from each other. The game is very entertaining and requires strong arms and legs, as well as nerves, determination, and speed."

Ice hockey never really developed and bandy remained the dominant sport in Finland until the 1920s. On December 26, 1926, Yrjö Salminen, the chairman of the Finnish Skating Association appeared on the ice on a lake near Tampere with a set of hockey sticks and some pucks and announced his famous words: "Get on and play, Boys!". A hockey section was formed in the Finnish Skating Association a year later.

In 1928, the Finnish Soccer Union created a hockey department and published its own set of rules based on those of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. Its main area of focus was arranging tournaments. The first official club match was played in Finland on January 15, 1928, as Pyrintö and Pallolijat faced off. The first national championship (SM-sarja) was also held that year and was won by Viipurin Reipas. It was played as a cup competition until shifting to a league format in 1934.[1]

The soccer union also entered the international scene by inviting the Swedish champions (IK Gota of Stockholm) to play in Helsinki for a doubleheader on January 29 and 30, 1928. The games, officially marked as Sweden vs. Finland, were the Finns' first international matches. Although the Swedes won 8-1 and 3-1, the games received plenty of coverage in Finland.

The country joined the IIHF on February 10, 1928.[2] It was the Skating Association that applied for the membership. Members of the two federations met and chose to create a unified governing body - the Finnish Ice Hockey Association - in 1929. The federation paid for Swedish coaches to come to Finland and teach the fundamentals of the game. Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku were the main hockey centers during the 1930s. Despite all the interest in ice hockey, bandy remained a popular sport and is still played in Finland to this day.

The Finnish National Team recorded its first international victory with a 2-1 win over Estonia in Helsinki on February 20, 1937.[3] Finland debuted at the World Championships in 1939, losing all five of their games. The famous Finnish lion was adopted as the crest on the national team's jersey in 1948, and the Finns proceeded to win their first World Championship games in 1949 (7-3 vs. Norway and 17-2 vs. fast-declining Belgium).

The sport developed further with the opening of the country's first artificial ice rink in Tampere on November 22, 1955. This helped greatly as the players were no longer forced to rely exclusively on natural ice. A strong industry in the manufacturing of hockey equipment also arose. Hockey was quickly gaining popularity, relegating bandy to second-tier status.

The national team began to fair better on the international scene in the 1960s. They beat Sweden for the first time in a friendly game (5-3) in 1963 and later recorded their inaugural victories over the Czechoslovaks (at the 1967 WC, 3-1) and even Canada (5-2 at the 1968 Olympics). Unlike now, when they constitute one of the "Big Six" hockey nations, Finland still remained well-below the elite teams. Some of the best Finnish players from the 1960s and 1970s included goaltenders Urpo Ylonen and Jorma Valtonen, defensemen Ilpo Koskela and Pekka Marjamaki and forward Veli-Pekka Ketola.

The first steps toward professionalism in the SM-sarja came in 1964, when RU-38 Pori, the team of a local manufacturing company, qualified for the league and quickly upgraded their roster by purchasing players from other local clubs. Prior to this, Finnish hockey had been strictly amateur. RU-38 won the league in 1967. Another manufacturing-based club, Upon Pallo Lahti, mirrored the tactics of the Pori team when they entered the league in 1968. The SM-Liiga (now known as the Liiga) was formed as a professional league in 1975. The league champion receives the Kanada-malja, which was first awarded to the SM-sarja winner in 1951.

By the 1980s players such as Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen and Reijo Routsalainen were NHL stars while Risto Siltanen, Pekka Rautakallio and Christian Ruttuu were playing major roles on NHL teams. The national team enjoyed its first major breakthrough at the 1988 Winter Olympics, winning the silver medal with a 2-1 victory over the Soviet Union (which had already clinched the gold) on the last day of the tournament. The Finns later took the silver at the 1992 World Championship, their first medal in over 50 years of WC play.

They inched closer to the gold in 1994, losing to Canada in the final, 2-1 in a shootout. The Finns would erase that heartbreak a year later, when a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the Swedish capital of Stockholm yielded them their first gold medal. This is still considered one of the greatest successes of Finnish ice hockey, and Finnish sport as a whole. Since 1994, they have medaled at every Olympics, save 2002, and won a total of 10 medals at the World Championships. The Finns channeled their inner-1995 by thumping Sweden 6-1 in the gold medal game at the 2011 World Championship in Bratislava.

Without a doubt the best and most popular player in Finnish hockey history is Teemu Selanne. A national star in his native country, he won four medals at the Olympics, a Stanley Cup in 2007, and is the subject of a top grossing biographical documentary in Finland. Another top player in recent times is Saku Koivu, who captained the Montreal Canadians for 10 years. Miika Kiprusoff is the top Finnish goalie in recent memory. Olli Jokinen is another name worth mentioning.

The women's national team first appeared on the international scene in 1988, playing in the Nordic Cup, in which they were victorious going 5-0. At the IIHF European Women Championships, they won the gold medal four times and the bronze medal. They have participated in the Women's World Championships since their inaugural edition in 1990, winning the bronze medal 11 times. The Finnish women have played in all five Olympic tournamenrs since 1998, winning two bronze medals The women's U18 national team has taken part in the IIHF World Women's U18 Championships annually since 2008, winning the bronze medal in 2011.

The junior national team first appeared at the IIHF World U20 Championships in 1974, and has competed every year since then. They have won four gold medals (1987, 1998, 2014, and 2016), five silver medals, and six bronze medals at the U20 tournament. The U18 national team won gold at the IIHF European U18 Championship in 1978. Jari Kurri scored the golden goal in the deciding game against the Soviet Union, as the Finns prevailed in a 6-5 thriller. This was Finland's first gold medal in any team sport. They won the Euro U18s three more times (1986, 1995, and 1997).

References

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