In deep-freeze conditions, HIFK beat Jokerit in this year’s “Winter Classic”
More than 34.000 fans brave the elements: “This does feel like a Siberia simulator.”
Despite the bone-chilling conditions, the “Winter Classic" open-air ice hockey match between the local SM-Liiga rivals Jokerit and HIFK did take place in front of 34,264 spectators in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The name of the day was HIFK forward Petteri Wirtanen, whose goal in the fourth round of the penalty shootout won the game for his team.
The result after the third period and the goalless overtime was 2-2, with Jokerit gamely coming back from a 2-0 deficit at the halfway point in the proceedings.
Another hero(ine) of the hour was fitness coach and model Eveliina “Eve” Pöllänen, who braved the elements and brought the opening puck onto the ice dressed in summery cropped capri trousers and a sleeveless top.
The temperature was close to -20 degrees Celsius, and in addition to the cold, matters were not helped by snowfall that meant periodic stoppages to clean the ice.
The first period alone lasted around 45 minutes in all with interruptions
By a cursory visual inspection, most of the spectators looked to be red-wearing HIFK supporters.
According to some Jokerit fans, however, this was a mere optical illusion.
“The Jokerit supporters do not wear uniform colours. Our team has a more colourful history”, one of them joked.
Visiting spectators from Turku also praised the “Winter Classic”.
“Here in Helsinki there is a clearly ice hockey culture. Rarely can one see so many spectators in a sporting event in Finland”, were the appreciative comments of Turku TPS fans Henri Johansson and Simo Seppälä.
“Everything has been well organised: the serving of refreshments, all the other services, the toilets.”
“But this does feel like a Siberia simulator!”
And truly, the spectators themselves were the real medal-winners. After all, they braved the elements in unheated conditions for three hours, unlike the players, who were being kept warm by the action on the ice as well as the heated dugouts.
The size of the audience in their thick winter coats is the best testimony to the success of the event and the popularity of the sport hereabouts.
The next chance to fill the Olympic Stadium is on Thursday, when the Finnish national ice hockey team plays a European Hockey tour fixture against Russia.
More than ten thousand tickets are still available for the event.
Oh, and the weather forecasters suggest it will be fine and only -12°C on the 9th.
Previously in HS International Edition:
The cold weather limit for Saturday´s “Winter Classic” open-air ice hockey match has been set at -20°C (3.2.2012)
Finnish Meteorological Institute - 5-day forecast for Helsinki