Tag Archives: Hartwall Areena

Finland Day Four/Five

For whatever reason, it feels like I’ve been in Finland longer than four days. Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. But my hotel room is starting to look and smell like a pack of Finnish reindeer had a party in it. Normally, I’m not one to utilize the housecleaning, but I’m going to have to relent. If anyone on the hotel cleaning crew is reading this, my apologies.

Today’s blog is going to inlcude last night’s game, and then the events of today (there weren’t many).

Last night, the Wild nabbed its first and only win from the preseason. First, the game stuff.

The Wild beat Ilves Tampere, 5-1, but were tied after two periods before beating Sami Aittokallio four times in the third.

Cal Clutterbuck was huge, burying three goals for his first hat trick since “two weeks before camp started at the St. Louis Park Octagon Camp.” All three of Clutter’s goals came on quick wrist shots from around 15 feet away. He was on a line with Matt Cullen and Casey Wellman, and they looked great all game long.

The other two goals were scored by Marek Zidlicky and Chuck Kobasew, and they were the prettiest two goals. Zidlicky worked a give-and-go with Mikko Koivu (who is rather popular here), and then kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and then fired a wrister through traffic.

Kobasew fought off a defender in front of the net, and with the puck laying between his opponent’s leg, he jammed it on goal and under Aittokallio. Kobasew was upstaged on the play by a jubilant John Madden, who slapped his stick on the ice and then picked up the puck. He said it was his first point ever in Finland. He played here last year with Chicago, and also played two games for I.F.K. during the lockout.

The team bussed back to Helsinki through the darkness and made it back after midnight. That prompted Todd Richards to call off Tuesday’s practice citing the lack of rest his guys have had in the last two weeks.

The team did appear at Hartwall Areena on Tuesday, however. The 100+ Wild fans that traveled from Minnesota were treated to a lunch with the entire team. General Manager Chuck Fletcher gave an opening speech and answered some questions from the fans. As usual, he had some good one-liners, saying the team has really bonded here in Finland…maybe too much considering they spent all Saturday together on Sauna Island.

He also mentioned that the team will have to make the two cuts prior to Wednesday’s game. Those two players have been told they have been placed on waivers, but he didn’t say who they were. We’ll be able to post the names once they are claimed or clear waivers.

Once Chuck was done, the players then entered the arena restaurant which had a castle-style feel to it. The players spread out among all the tables to break bread and sign autographs for the fans. Even Bruce Oreck, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland was in attendance near the end.

The players have the rest of Tuesday to themselves. Tomorrow will be the final practice in preparation for Carolina on Thursday. The Canes arrived in Helsinki last night and were on the ice at Hartwall Areena for the first time today. They lost to SKA-St. Petersburg last night, but I can’t imagine they are too broken up about it. From all accounts, it sounds as if they were just happy to get out of there with everybody’s limbs still attached. Apparently, the Russian team was taking a few too many liberties with the skilled players.

Finland Day Three

Good evening everybody, although it’s the afternoon back in Minny, if that’s where you’re currently located. I know that some of you are right here in Helsinki because 110 Wild fans arrived in town today for a week of fun and watching the good guys in the NHL Premiere. Welcome to Finland!

Let me know if you want me to show you around. After three days and a guided tour of the city today, I feel like a native.

Today was a nice little Sunday. As you know, yesterday the Wild players made a trip to Sauna Island in the afternoon before returning. I’m not sure what they did with the rest of their Saturday night, but I would assume they hung out in their rooms and maybe caught a new release. I see that Iron Man 2 is playing.

Whatever they did, they were at their best at Hartwall Areena for today’s open practice in front of a couple thousand Finns, at least! The Areena staff had to open up a couple of blocked off sections because more people came than expected. They love their Wild here.

As for practice, the three injured guys – Brent Burns, Guillaume Latendresse and Marek Zidlicky – all skated. It appears all should be good to go by Thursday’s season opener. Burns and Zidlicky will most likely play in tomorrow’s exhibition in Tampere.

Following practice, the players grabbed a quick lunch, many opting for a Finnish specialty restaurant called “Subway.” I was one of the customers and was blown away. You can get a 30 cm. sandwich here!

After that, it was time for a guided tour of Helsinki. The players boarded one bus, and coaches and management boarded another. Wild PR guru Aaron Sickman took the flip cam with the players, so I went on the management bus and snapped photos (which will appear in a gallery later this week). I made the right choice. We had a travel guide named Ripsu, who was absolutely hysterical.

Two of her gems that I can remember: 1) Talking about the celebration of Vappu, which lasts 24 hours from April 30 to May 1, she said, “May 1 is a great day to come to Helsinki because everybody is partying and everybody is drunk. May 2 is not a good day to come because everybody is sick. In Helsinki, we speak many languages, but on May 2, we don’t speak anything.” and 2) There is a statue of Labor in the middle of downtown, which features three muscular, naked men with hammers. Ripsu said, “I call those my three ex-husbands, but that would not be true because I only have two ex-husbands. But they are naked because I took everything in the divorce.”

Ripsu was a big hit on the bus, as was the tour. Helsinki is a beautiful city with colorful buildings, a beautiful harbor and many statues and squares. Ripsu had information on all of them, which made me regret giving the flipcam to Sickman. I could have educated all of you who haven’t been here. A couple highlights were a church that is built inside of rock, which surrounds the pews on all sides. Then, there was a metal sculpture of tubes in a park that you are supposed to stick your head in to hear music. Again, there will be photos posted of all of this in a couple days.

The full day of activities left everyone tired. Tomorrow’s a game day, so it’s time for some beauty sleep. The next Lighthouse blog may very well be written on a bus ride from Tampere to Helsinki. Have a great Sunday!

Finland Day Two

Hello again from Helsinki!

It was a great day here for Day Two, with a lot of action and a lot of hockey. This morning, the Wild players shook off the cobwebs for the first practice of the trip, which was held in the practice rink underneath Hartwall Areena, where the team will play Carolina on Thursday and Friday.

Rink might be stretching what this place was actually like. The ceilings and walls are like rock, and in parts, stick out over the ice surface. It didn’t seem to bother the players, who seemed to enjoy the up-tempo practice.

It wasn’t official at the time of practice, but the Wild did confirm the signing of goaltender Jose Theodore later in the day. Theodore will join the team next week, which means he missed out on the team’s trip to Sauna Island this afternoon. It was a player and coach-only event, and I’m doubting we’ll find out too much about all that went on, but I’ll challenge my inner-Mike Russo to try and dig up some dirt.

The entire front office staff, including owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher and Assistant GM Brent Flahr, took in tonight’s Finnish Elite League Game between H.I.F.K. Helsinki and Assat. Mikael Granlund, the Wild’s first round pick last year, plays for H.I.F.K. and he put on a show for his future employers. He finished the night with a goal and three assists and was named the game’s Second Star after his club bulldozed to an 11-3 victory.

This one wasn’t as close as the score indicated as Assat didn’t appear to even be in the same class. They had no answer for Granlund and his Finnish superstar linemate, Ville Peltonen. As for Granlund, he’s going to be a good one. He’s still just a kid playing with adults, but he always seems to be in the right spot, make the right play and he gets to the net. That’s how he scored his goal, parking himself in front and tipping a high shot as it whizzed by.

Russo and I spoke to a 16-year-old Granlund fan named Tuomas, who wore his number 64 jersey. The youngster says Granlund “will be one of the most talented Finnish players ever when he is older.” He was a great interview, and you can see that on Wild.com later as well.

We had the chance to talk to Mikael after the game, and that and some highlights will be posted on Wild.com later today.

What an atmosphere! The crowd, especially in the corner where we were seated, were singing, chanting, dancing, clapping and waving flags for the entire game. The only time they weren’t going crazy was during the intermissions, when the arena nearly empties out completely. My only complaint was that every time Assat took a penalty, the song “Bad to the Bone” would play. It didn’t help that Assat took roughly 134 penalties in this game. Other than that, it was an amazing experience, and truly an atmosphere I’ve never had the chance to see. I’m already excited for Monday’s exhibition in Tampere, which by the way is pronounced “Tam-pear-ah.”

There were some fights in this one as well, which from what I understand, is not all that common in Finnish games. Assat started getting pretty chippy, especially when it was clear a blowout was going to happen.

Keep an eye out on Wild.com for more on Granlund, and plenty of video in the next few hours. Since I’m told I’m getting some bad information on my Finnish translations, I will just say “talk to you later.” It only makes sense, because I’ve hardly run into anybody here that doesn’t speak English.