Tove. Tove Jansson was born 100 years ago this year. Best known internationally for her Moomin comics, she was also a very good novelist. A lot of her stuff is available in English this year, so snap it up.
The Kalevala is the central body of Finnish myth. Elias Lönnrot assembled the epic poem from traditional songs in the 1830s and 40s and it rapidly became the core text of nineteenth-century Finnish nationalism. It inspired Finnish artists including the composer Jean Sibelius, and painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela who in the 1890s created many of the most famous images associated with the poem. Sammon puolustrus (The Defense of the Sampo) was painted in 1896 and now resides in the Turku Art Museum. The Sampo is not the ship but the cargo lashed down in the lower right corner. The poem is not that clear about what the object is exactly, beyond a kind of all-purpose mill. I think it's a replicator myself.
The Mestis is the second-highest level of professional ice hockey in Finland. There are twelve teams, each playing a schedule of 48 games from September to February. Each team plays each other team four times, making 44 games. The extra four games are played during two "revenge weekends" in which teams can select their opponent. That is so Finnish.
The top eight clubs play off for the league championship. The quarterfinals are best-of-seven, while the semifinals and finals are best-of-five. There is a bronze medal game. The playoff winner moves on to a qualification playoff against the 12th-placed club of the SM-liiga. The winner of that series earns a place in next season's SM-liiga. The bottom two Mestis teams play a best-of-seven series and the loser must take part in a tournament against three third-tier clubs to earn a place in next season's Mestis.
This year's Mestis clubs are:
HCK. HC Keski-Uusimaa. Rink: Keravan jäähalli (capacity 2,000) in Kerava on the south coast. Colours: blue, orange and white.
Hokki. Founded in 1968, they play at Kajaanin jäähalli (capacity 2,372), in Kajaani, Kainuu, at the southern margin of the north of Finland. Colours: red, white and blue. Affiliated with Kärpät of the SM-liiga and the Finnish army.
Jokipojat. Since their beginning in 1953 they have spent three years in the top level of Finnish hockey, most recently in 1991-92. They play at Mehtimäki Ice Stadium (capacity 4,800) in Joensuu in North Karelia. Colours: red, black and white. Coach: Esa Tikkanen. They were the 2010 Mestis champions.
Jukurit. Founded in 1970, they have won the Mestis four times, but have not been up to the SM-liiga. Their hometown of Mikkeli is in the eastern interior of Finland. Their rink Kalevankankaan jäähalli seats 4,487. Their colours are yellow, blue and red.
JYP-Akatemia. As the name suggests, they are the second squad of the SM-liiga's JYP. They play at the same rink, Synergia-Areena (4,500), in Jyväskylä, and wear a similar red, black and white uniform. They were formerly named D-Team.
Kiekko-Vantaa. Vantaa began play in 1994. Their rink is 2004-seat Valtti-areena in Vantaa on the south shore of Finland. Colours: blue, orange and white. Vantaa's fish and puck logo is better-looking than it sounds, and is probably a reference to the city's coat of arms.
KooKoo Kouvola. Yes, really. KooKoo have a classic logo and a black, orange and white uniform that would have suited a Campbell Conference All-Star team in the Eighties. Kouvola is in the south quite near the Russian border. The Kouvolan jäähalli seats 6,000. [Tommy Wingels of the San Jose Sharks has signed with KooKoo for the duration of the NHL lockout.]
LeKi. Lempäälän Kisa has the longest pedigree of any club in the Mestis, going back to 1904, but the hockey team didn't begin play until the Fifties. They play in the teensy Masku Areena (capacity 900) in Lempäälä, south of Tampere, and are affiliated with both Ilves and Tappara. Blue and white.
Peliitat. Founded in 1969, Peliitat play at the 2,975-seat Versowood Areena in Heinola in south central Finland. Colours: red, white and black. They're affiliated with Pelicans of the SM-liiga.
SaPKo. Savonlinnan Pallokerho play at the Talvisalon Gigantti-areena, which is not so gigantic at 2,833 seats, in Savonlinna, in the lower right-hand corner of Finland. Their emblem is a ram's head, and their colours are the typical Mestis blue, white and red. The club was founded in 1929 and began hockey practice in the Sixties. They're affiliated with KalPa.
TuTo Hockey. Short for Turun Toverit. This club has been playing since 1929, and would be arch rivals of TPS Turku except that they have not been in the same league since 1996. Colours: white, blue and red. Classic logo. Their rink is Kupittaan jäähalli, which holds 3,000 hockey fans. [Matt Bradley of the Florida Panthers, Brad Winchester of the San Jose Sharks, Jesse Winchester of the Ottawa Senators and Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets have signed with TuTo.]
Vaasan Sport. Sport are the current Mestis champs. Their rink is the Vaasa Arena (4,448) in the western city of Vaasa. The club began in 1939 and took up hockey in 1962. They wear red, black and white.
The SM-Liiga is the top tier of pro hockey in Finland. There are 14 clubs, each playing a 60-game season from September to April. Ten teams make the playoffs, which use this format: two best-of-three wildcard series involving the 7th- through 10th-place clubs; four best-of-seven quarterfinal series; two best-of-seven semifinal series; a best-of-seven final series; a bronze medal game; and a best-of-seven relegation playoff series between the fourteenth club and the champion of the second-tier league, the Mestis. The NHL should totally have a bronze medal game. The winner of the playoffs receives the Kanada-malja (Canada Trophy), which was donated by Finnish Canadians in 1951.
Like other European hockey leagues this year, the SM-Liiga has become a destination for locked-out NHL players.
These are the fourteen clubs playing in the SM-Liiga this season:
Ässät. The Aces play at the 6,500-seat Porin Jäähalli in the west coast city of Pori, jazz capital of Finland. They were formed out of two older clubs in 1967 and have won the Finnish championship twice. Colours: red, black and white. [Jesse Joensuu of the Islanders has signed with Ässät.]
Blues. Espoo Blues play at the Barona Areena (capacity 7,017) in Espoo, Finland's second largest city and home of Nokia. Founded in 1984, they have won the Finnish championship twice, in 2008 and 2011. Colours: blue, white and yellow. Shawn McEachern played for them during the 1994 lockout, and Mike Ribiero in 2004-05.
HIFK. Seven-time Finnish champions, most recently in 2011, HIFK sports club brags about its founding in 1897, though regular hockey action did not begin until 1945. Bitter rivals of Jokerit. HIFK's rink is the 8,200-seat Helsinki Ice Hall. Team colours: red, white and blue. [Sean Bergenheim of the Florida Panthers, Lennart Petrell of the Edmonton Oilers, Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars and Mathieu Perreault of the Washington Capitals have signed with HIFK.]
HPK. Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho. The Knights date back to 1929, but have won the Kanada-malja only once, in 2006. They play at 5,360-seat Ritari-areena in Hämeenlinna in southern Finland, and thus are Sibelius's home team. Colours: orange, black and white. [Eric Fehr and Antti Miettinen of the Winnipeg Jets have signed with HPK.]
Ilves. Founded in 1931, the Lynx are the most illustrious of Finnish hockey clubs, with 16 championships (most recently 1985), one more than local rivals Tappara, with whom they share the Tampereen jäähalli (capacity 6,600). Colours: green, yellow and black. [Anders Lindbäck of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Maxime Talbot of the Philadelphia Flyers and Daniel Paille of the Boston Bruins have signed with Ilves.]
Jokerit. Founded in 1967, the Jokers have been Finnish champion six times, most recently in 2002, which makes them at least twice as successful as any of the NHL's 1967 expansion teams. Winners of the 2003 IIHF Continental Cup. They play at the 13,349-seat Hartwall Areena in Helsinki. Tim Thomas played goal for them in the 2004-05 lockout year. Colours: red, yellow and blue. [Valtteri Filppula of the Red Wings and Ottawa Senator Erik Karlsson have signed with Jokerit.]
JYP. Short for Jyväskylän Palloilijat. They began in 1977 and have recently come into their own, winning the Kanada-malja in 2009 and 2012. Red, white and black. They play at the modestly-sized Synergia-areena (4,500) in Jyväskylä, central Finland. [Rich Peverley of the Bruins and Lars Eller of the Habs have signed with JYP.]
KalPa. Kalevan Pallo. KalPa are the most recent addition to the league, rejoining in 2005 after an absence of six years. Indeed, the signing of locked-out NHLers in 2004-05 was instrumental in the club's promotion, and two of them, Sami Kapanen and Kimmo Timonen, are team owners today. KalPa play at the 5,004-seat Niiralan monttu in Kuopio in central Finland. Colours: black and yellow. [Craig Smith of Nashville and Derek Stepan of the Rangers have signed with KalPa.]
Kärpät. The Weasels play at Oulon Energia Areena (capacity 6,614) in Oulu in the north of Finland. Founded in 1946, they are five-time Finnish champs, most recently in 2008. Colours: black, yellow and white. [Jason Demers of San Jose and Kyle Turris of the Senators have signed with Kärpät.]
Lukko. This is the club to join during an NHL lockout. Their name means lock, and their logo is a picture of a lock. They play in Rauma, a west coast seaport, at the Äijänsuo Arena, which seats 5,400. Colours: yellow, blue and white. Glenn Anderson played for them during the 1994 lockout, and Dwayne Roloson played goal for them in 2004-05, getting 20 wins in 34 starts. [Frans Nielsen of the Islanders, MikkelBødker of Phoenix, and Philip Larsen of Dallas have all signed with Lukko. All three are Danish. Peter Regin, also Danish, signed with Langenthal of the Swiss National League B, but has moved on to Lukko.]
Pelicans. This club traces its roots back to 1891 in a bit of Finland that's now a bit of Russia. It relocated to Lahti in 1945, and rebranded itself Pelicans in 1996. Last season the Pelicans came second in the regular season, and silver in the playoffs. Ryan Lasch was the league's points leader. Isku Areena (5,530). Colours: teal, black, white and orange. [The San Jose Sharks' goalie Antti Niemi and Jamie McBain of the Carolina Hurricanes have signed with the Pelicans.]
SaiPa. Short for Saimaan Pallo. Hometown: Lappeenranta, in South Karelia. Rink: Kisapuiston Jäähalli (capacity 4,847). Colours: yellow and black. They were founded in 1948, and have been SM-Liiga members for the past 17 years. [Cory Emmerton of the Red Wings has signed with SaiPa.]
Tappara. The Battle Ax are 15-time Finnish champions, most recently 2003. Founded 1932. They play at Tampereen jäähalli in Tampere, the Manchester of Finland. Colours: blue, orange and white. Archrivals and co-tenants of Ilves. [Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks has signed with Tappara Tampere. He too is Danish. Justin Brown of the San Jose Sharks has also signed with Tappara.]
TPS. TPS Turku. The sports club started in 1922, and took up hockey in 1929. They have won the Finnish championship 11 times, most recently 2010. Colours: black and white. HK Arena holds 11,820. Corey Locke signed with TPS prior to the lockout. [And since the lockout Kris Russell and Kevin Shattenkirk of the St Louis Blues, Alec Martinez of the LA Kings, Lauri Korpikoski of the Phoenix Coyotes and Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild have signed with TPS.]