Finland wins ice hockey gold at first-ever Youth Winter Olympics
Sons of current stars aid in securing future success in Finnish ice hockey
A couple of years ago concerns were raised in Finland over the absence of teenage sports stars. Today, such anxieties seem misplaced. New teenage stars keep emerging more frequently than for ages.
Over the weekend, the Finnish national Under-16 ice hockey team showed what it is capable of.
In the first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games held in Innsbruck, Austria, Finland first defeated Canada in the semi-finals and in the Olympic final it was Russia’s turn to succumb.
At the Innsbruck Games, Kasperi Kapanen and Joni Tuulola were among Finland’s core players.
KalPa forward Kapanen, 15, is a third-generation ice hockey player and HPK defender Tuulola, 16, a second- generation star in the making.
Sami Kapanen, 38, is KalPa’s managing director and also plays as a forward in the club's SM-Liiga senior team. Marko Tuulola, 41, is a HPK defender.
Kasperi Kapanen’s grandfather Hannu is a former stalwart of the Finnish national team and his uncle Jari is a respected league player.
Kasperi Kapanen certainly shone on the ice in Austria. He collected six points (4+2) in as many games. When interviewed, he was also good with his mouth.
During his father’s years in the NHL, Kapanen Jr. acquired a perfect command of the English language. The family returned to Kuopio and Finland in 2008.
“Sure. I'm probably not taking it off for the next two months, at least,” was Kapanen’s reply on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s website when he was asked if he would sleep wearing the gold medal around his neck.
Waltteri Hopponen (Espoo Blues) scored Finland’s 1-1 equaliser just 62 seconds before the end of the third period. Overtime was scoreless, and in the penalty shootout that followed Finland’s goals were scored by Kapanen and Manu Honkanen (TPS).
The real hero of the hour was Finland’s goalie Kaapo Kähkönen (Espoo Blues), who fended off all of Russia’s attempts.
The generation game was not confided to the Finnish roster: in Russia’s team one of the goalies was Maxim Tretiak, whose grandfather Vladislav Tretiak has often been cited as the greatest hockey goaltender of all time.
In yesterday’s final, however, Russia’s coaching team did not trust in Maxim's skills, despite the fact that the famous grandfather has been the chairman of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation since 2006.
In the Tretiak family, enthusiasm for ice hockey skipped a generation. Tretiak’s son, Dmitri, became a dentist and his daughter Irina a lawyer.
Within the past three months, sons of two former ice hockey stars have made their debuts in the SM-Liiga, the top ice hockey division in Finland.
In October, Aleksander Barkov, 16, and in January Juuso Ikonen, 17, played their first SM-Liiga games.
Aleksander Barkov Sr. won the SM-Liiga gold medal with Tampere Tappara in 2003. He has also played for Russia in three World Championship tournaments.
Juha Ikonen, in turn, is a former captain of the Espoo Blues league team, and a World Championship silver medallist for Finland from 1998.
In Innsbruck, Finland’s victorious Under-16s were coached by Tomi Lämsä, 32, a current assistant coach for Helsinki Jokerit, who will assume the duties of head coach for the SM-Liiga squad for next season.
1st Winter Youth Olympic Games, Innsbruck
Youth Olympic Games (Wikipedia)