Friday, April 10, 2009

A strange first day at the Under 18s

I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Under-18 World Championships. I'm not ready to talk about particular players yet, but here are a few observations.

1. Everyone loves beating the Russians. The Swedish coaches in the stands nearby actually applauded when the Finns took the lead over Russia. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, apparently. There was quite a big celebratory noise coming out of the Finnish locker room after the game as well. When I told two Finnish players that the Swedes clapped for their goal, they looked at each other with a sort of befuddlement. How bizarre indeed.
2. The Finnish team looks very small compared to the Russians. They have skill to make up for it.
3. The Finnish coach used an interpreter, probably to make sure his meaning was precise. I was surprised he wasn't comfortable in English though, virtually all European coaches are.
4. I found the Swedish coach in the stands and talked to him about a particular player. Very nice man.
5. There was virtually no press at the rink we were at (the secondary one). It was quite bizarre to be at a very important tournament and have to be the lead question-asker towards a coach. Shouldn't someone else, someone writing a game story, be doing this? But on the other hand, I could get any player I wanted and no time limit. That was good. So far it has sort of a high school tournament feel to it -- well, if there weren't so many scouts here.
6. I'd say there were about 100 NHL scouts, virtually all dressed in black, on the top ring on all four sides. I think they might have outnumbered the fans.
7. Several guys are listed on the roster as 5'12. Hmm. That makes me wonder what how tall the guys who are 6'0 are. Maybe I should use the centimeters and convert on my own.
8. The rink was freezing, an 'I had long underwear but I still need gloves' kind of cold. I thought it wouldn't feel cold outside after so many hours in the cold rink, but I was wrong. The windchill out there is brutal.
9. Erik Haula's English is so good, you would think he was native. Amazing. You want to blurt out 'are you really Finnish?' but then he talks to someone else in Finnish and, well, nevermind.
10. This place really is just like the movie Fargo. Stopped and asked someone directions today, and they didn't know how to get to the arena, but they called three people on their cell phone to find out. "Near the high school, you're figuring?" he said. That one made me giggle on the spot. That's where it was alright, behind the "Home of the Spuds," but unmarked.
11. The flood danger has not passed. They are building a secondary sand dyke right outside the hotel here. I anticipate that the work will go on all night.

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