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Hockey brings out the craziness in Finns. E ENG 52 BLUE WINGS very spring something slightly co-host is arch-rival Sweden, defeated in 2011 by scary happens in Finland. Finland in a final of mythological status (at least on Women normally scornful of the eastern side of the Baltic), adds a piquancy to the anything vaguely sporty transproceedings. The 6-1 score line, crowned by one of form into demented enthusiasts. the most precocious goals ever scored in a tournaThe bars are packed with screamment ­ the legendary "air hook" by the then 19-yearing girls and rapt male faces. old Mikael Granlund ­ sent the nation into mass There's a lot of noise. Suddenly delirium, with tens of thousands flocking to Helsinki's the entire nation is a collective Market Square to greet the returning heroes. and tactical expert on bodyHome supporters will be optimistic of an unprecchecks, hooking and cross-checking. It's ice hockey edented second consecutive World Championship for world championships time again. Finland, although several competing countries would To a fan of football, where the biggest prize, the argue with that. After all, Finland's last triumph was as World Cup, is contested once every far back as 1995. Chief among the four years, the idea of an annual likely candidates are Canada and world championship might seem the USA, both in Finland's starting A FINNISH WIN excessive, but not to the hockeygroup, as well as co-hosts Sweden, WOULD LEAD TO loving Finn. The IIHF World ChamRussia and Czech Republic. pionships in Ice Hockey are like a Games are distributed between NATIONAL DELIRIUM. spring catharsis, a shared national the two capitals, Helsinki and experience as regular as the melting Stockholm, with the semi-finals snow, the First of May and the and finals in Helsinki. In 2013 the anemones in the forest. That a number of the world's same two cities will share the tournament, with Stockbest players may still be engaged in the later stages of holm hosting the later stages. the National Hockey League's season in North AmerAmerican novelist and sports writer Paul Gallico ica is neither here nor there. famously described ice hockey as "a fast body-contact The backdrop to this year's championships is game played by men with clubs in their hands and exquisite, since Finland enters the tournament as both knives laced to their feet." The clubs ­ or hockey sticks World Champion and co-host. The fact that the other ­ and knives ­ or skates ­ are two items of a necesAPRIL 2012

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