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After 4-0 and 6-0 victories HPK is now 3rd in Finnish league. Roughly half of regular season is now played. Teemu Turunen is leading scorer in the league. The organization as a whole has improved a lot and economically HPK is going towards better times as spectators have also found back to the stands. 

HPK used to give the boot to the coaches, when things got bad. Last year they did the opposite. Even if the things looked grim after a very bad autumn-season, they decided to continue with young, promising coach Antti Pennanen, instead of throwing him under the buss. That decision is now paying dividends. The guy learned from his past shortcomings and now everything from the fitness of the players to the style of play to the mental state of the team has improved. 

As a fan, I've lived through almost a decade of bad season after bad season. The economical troubles. The lack of clear view on how to run this team from the board of directors. The seasons, when the only plan seemed to be collecting enough players from somewhere and hiring some kind of a coach.  The hiring of ridiculous amount of  veteran HPK-players (with rather expensive deals, too), who had played long enough in the money leagues and wanted to come back home and were mere shadows of the players they once were.

Finally the new winds are blowing and this team is starting to remind me of the teams I once fell in love with a couple of decades ago. 

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@Harvest

Good that you do have such a good time with HPK. One do appreciates it even more after bad times.

 

I feel very priviliged as a Dutchie nowadays in enjoying sports, especially top sports. I cannot remember a time when we had so many top class sporters in such a variety of sports. There's hardly a weekend/week without sports, where Dutchies do not compete in the highest ranks.

I'm thinking about these people:

Cycling - Tom Dumoulin: absolutely world class cyclist, both as a time trialist and Grand Tour Races. Apart from him, we have a juicy amount of other top riders (Mollema/Terpstra/Oomen/Kruiswijk/Kelderman) and also a lot of good young prospects. It must have been in the eighties that we had such a wealth in class cyclists.

Cycling - Annemiek van Vleuten/Anna van der Breggen/ Marianne Vos etc., etc. You can hardly deny that we rule the women's side of cycling. It's just incredible and it shows no way of decreasing. There are a few direct reasons for it (doping control for women has obliterated the East-european and Italian women/Dutchies ride their bikes when they are 2/3 years old/the great cycle infrastructure in the NL/good structure to participate in clubs/training), but that would take a few pages.

Volleyball - Our women reached the best 4 at the Worlds this year, the best result ever. Very good (4th) at the Olympics) They are a joy to watch. Also good future perspectives.

Handball - Again our women do lead the way. Already podium places at European and World championships and 4th at the Olympics. Also a good example that, when you put some money, structure and effort in a sport when you got the talent, you can achieve a lot.

Cyclocross - Mathieu van der Poel is the absolute best cyclocross rider for some years now. It's not good for this sport as such, but what can you do? He is also a world class mountainbiker (3rd at Worlds) and has won road races as well. Also 3rd at the European championships. His age: 23!!!! Loads of road teams want him, but he's just enjoying his cyclocross and mountainbike as they are much more fun!! He describes roadracing as a bit boring!:giggle: He wants to become Olympic champion in Tokyo. Good luck with that!

Cyclocross - While the men's racing is quite a one-man-show at the moment, the women's side is very enjoyable with loads of different winners. The Dutch have the widest winning streak (Betsema/Vos/Worst/Alvarado/Brand) and a lot of upcoming talent, but the battles and races are a joy to watch......much better than the men. And they will get equal pay in the coming years as well. Organizers start to realize that fans immensely enjoy the women.

Cycling - Marianne Vos - What can I say? The greatest female cyclist ever!! Twice Olympic (road and track) champion, thrice World champion on the road and 5 times second. Several times world champion on the track and 7 times world champion in cyclocross. I won't even mention the rest. She's considered to be the best cyclist ever, male or female. But in 2014 she paid the price. Being totally overtrained, she landed in the depths of not being able to compete anymore. Took 2 years off and returned as a wiser woman. But she's not as good (fanatic yes) anymore, because she needs to relativate her professional life. And other Dutchies have taken over the torch. But being only 31, it would not surprise me to still see her win major victories.

Motorsport - Max Verstappen - We Dutchies never had such a fantastic talented racer, while we are quite a motor sport loving nation. What can he achieve? He has already won 5 races in an inferior car. Will he go to Mercedes or Ferrari when Red Bull/Honda fail to deliver?

Jeffrey Herlings - World champion motorcross. Left the 9 times world champion Cairoli far behind him this year. Not a fan of this sport, but still nice when a fellow country man does good.

Football - Well, our men's team has been absolutely awful the last 6 years (apart from 2014 when Van Gaal ruled), but at last shows signs of recovery. Appaling signing of over-aged coaches and clueless leaders in our FA. However, our women are worldclass. Forgetting all the differences between men and women, they are a joy to watch. Became European champion last year and are on their way to the Worlds next year in France. Male and female fans have taken to them in a big way. As with almost all our team sporters, 90% play abroad.

Ice Speed skating - Worldclass for over 50 years. It is almost a given for us, forgetting that there were lessewr times sometimes.

Sven Kramer - Considered to be the best speed skater ever. It almost goes for the same with Ireen Wust on the female side. Most awarded Olympic speed skater and second in the ranks of most awarded Olympic wintersporter ever. As it's one of our national sports, it's almost obligatory to watch it. Not that we all have it all our own way and we love competition. The sport is in our hearts, like cycling. And we've plenty of indoor and outdoor 400m icerinks.

Hockey - Both national teams are worldclass with the notion that the women have been the absolute no.1 over the last 15 years and the men do hang around place 2 till 5. It's one of the few sports where the Dutch League (both men and women) are the world's strongest. Loads of excellent facilities, club structures. Almost all sports inthe NL start at club level. Not only for competition, also for particpating, socializing and pure sport fun.

Athletics - Dafne Schippers - Our wonder woman! despite some mishaps by far the best athlete we have. We are simply not used in having one.....such a good one that is. Memberships of athletic clubs have gone mad since she surfaced and at some clubs there are waiting lists!! It again shows what a good model can do for the sport. I must mention Sifan Hassan as well, because she's worldclass on the longer distances. One could argue she's Ethiopian, but she came as a child refugee to the NL, never had run anything and was completely trained and coached by Dutchies. Also very fine athletes at both Heptahlon and Decathlon. Anouk Visser has made the transition from heptathlon to hurdles and she's doing fine.

Sailing - Dorian van Rijsselberghe - twice Olympic champion now. Lots of other worldclass sailers, including Olympic and multiple world champion Marit Bouwmeester.

Swimming - Ranomi Kromowidjojo - One of my all time favourite female sporters......no nonsense, get on with it. Never searching for excuses and already 12 years worldclass. Thrice Olympic champion and who knows how many European and World titles. However, she's now generally surpassed by the magnificent Swede Sarah Sjostrom, although she still bears her now and then. After Tokyo it will be game over for her, unfortunately. Further mention worthy is Femke Heemskerk.

Long distant swiming - Both Olympic champion Sharon van Rouwendael and Ferry Weertman are top their game.

Tennis - Kiki Bertens - TOP-10 now, but she can do better when she wants. A bit frail mentally wise. Long ago that we had a top-10 player. Unfortunately I lost all interest in tennis long ago. Just watched Federer/Nadal/Djokovic battles now and then.

Gymnastics - Epke Zonderland. Master and ludicrous adventurer on the high beam! Olympic champion in a sport till 10 years ago, a very distant achievable one in terms of global succes. Never been good at it. But boy, has that changed. 2 Olympic champions and multiple World and European champions. Biggest achievement is however, beong present AS a team at the Olympics! Which shows a bit of depth in the sport. And not only the women, but the men too! Never ever thought I would see that. I don't watch it much, because there are only a few parts I do like, but Gymnastics have become quite popular among the youthful.  

Other sports that we are good in are: equestrian disciplines, BMX, short track speed skating, waterpolo, baseball, rowing and for the lazy buggers there's always Michael van Gerwen.............

 

So, all in all, I think we never had such a sporting good time all around. So, if you, like me, were completely fed up with football, you could turn your attention to the joys of female handball and volleyball (or foreign rugby), athletics and still get your sport watching kick. and the best thing is really, that all succesful sports have stimulated our youth to even more participate by joining sport clubs. There are only winners in that, although I would say that football is the loser in all this.                   

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A little blond guy from small country quietly came and won all individual prizes in one year as a first man who achieved that (including a prize he won today - Ballon D'Or).

That guy led its small country to the greatest sport sucess since its independence in 1992, as a captain and true leader - reaching the final of the football World Cup and becoming runners up.

That guy helped one of the biggest clubs to won 3 CL in a row (4 overall) as one the most important wheels behind it.

You won't see him as a "star" of covers of yellow press. He speaks where he needs - on the pitch.

He's just like a guy next door, shy and calm, with a beautiful wife and children, living quiet and happy family life.

That guy went to hell and back to become who he is now and to be where he is now.

Ladies and gentlemen, one and only, the greatest Croatian football player ever and one of the best players in the world...

Luka Modric.

Dear captain, from the bottom of my heart, congratulations on Ballon D'Or (and every single prize you won). You deserved it! And thank you!

:thankyou::clap::yahoo::D

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On 12/3/2018 at 11:41 PM, MeadowsOfHeaven said:

A little blond guy from small country quietly came and won all individual prizes in one year as a first man who achieved that (including a prize he won today - Ballon D'Or).

That guy led its small country to the greatest sport sucess since its independence in 1992, as a captain and true leader - reaching the final of the football World Cup and becoming runners up.

That guy helped one of the biggest clubs to won 3 CL in a row (4 overall) as one the most important wheels behind it.

You won't see him as a "star" of covers of yellow press. He speaks where he needs - on the pitch.

He's just like a guy next door, shy and calm, with a beautiful wife and children, living quiet and happy family life.

That guy went to hell and back to become who he is now and to be where he is now.

Ladies and gentlemen, one and only, the greatest Croatian football player ever and one of the best players in the world...

Luka Modric.

Dear captain, from the bottom of my heart, congratulations on Ballon D'Or (and every single prize you won). You deserved it! And thank you!

:thankyou::clap::yahoo::D

Yeah, but can he twerk?:rolleyes:

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Mikko Rantanen. What can you say. 33 games of NHL regular season played and this guy is leading the NHL scoring with 15 goals scored and 41 assists.This current pace (if sustained) will equal something like 130 points after the regular season. And that would be a record during the 2000's.

Joe Thornton scored 125 points during 05-06-season, Jaromir Jagr scored 123 during that same season. Sidney Crosby had 120 points during 06-07 season. That's top 3 during this millenium.

All time Finnish records are the 135-point season by Jari Kurri during 84-85 season and Teemu Selänne's legendary rookie-season. when he scored 132 points.Kurri and Selänne are still the only Finnish players to reach 100 points during one regular season.  Of course, the game was very different back during the era of Kurri and still during that Selänne's rookie-season.Goalies didn't have that butterfly-style (which reduced scoring a lot), trap wasn't used as defensive tactic (reduced scoring chances a lot and turned the game in to dump and chase-fest) and of course the players themselves are nowadays more athletic. 

It's a long season, though. Any thing can happen from injuries to Rantanen getting to a long cold streak, but this is something special. Everybody here had their eyes on Alexander Barkov jr. and Patrik Laine and thought these two would be those big Finnish superstars in NHL. Apparently Rantanen saw this and told us to hold his beer for a moment. 

 

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Finnish U20-hockey team made it to final against USA in World Championships. The U20's and U18's have been impressive for the few past years:

2014 U20 Champion

2016 both U20 and U18 Champion

2018 U18 Champion

2015 and 2017 U18 Silver Medals.

It's fun to see what this bunch will achieve in major level hockey in the future. 

 

Edit.

And they won. What's nice here is the fact that these guys have now won U18's and U20's in North American soil and in smaller. North American rink. Traditionally it has been the common wisdom that Canada and USA rule the smaller rink, European teams the bigger. 

Towards Beijing 2022. Dispute between NHL,  NHLPA, IIHF and IOC (and who ever is involved) is still ongoing, but I really hope that these grey haired gentleman would finally come to their senses. It's frustrating to see these people fighting over money, when we, the spectators, just want to watch quality hockey and the players want to play. 

 

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Very good news from Dafne Schippers. Her American trainer had to return to the Stated for family reasons, so she had to look for another coach. She returned to her former trainer Bennema and you saw the changes immediately after a few months..........less bulky, lost a lot of muscled weight, got her elegance more and more back and more important...her turbo!!! And as a result, her times start to get competitive again.

I never was fan on the 'powered' and very muscular Dafne as she lost everything athletic fans loved about her. Go Dafne!!

And (I had never heard of her before) at the latest national indoor championships, 'suddenly' a 15 year old girl named Seedo popped up and won bronze on the 60 meters!! She's faster than Dafne at her age!! Nice, but let's wait how it will go, but the prospects are good! Also for the 4 x 100 meters. 

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On 2/19/2019 at 3:04 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

Very good news from Dafne Schippers. Her American trainer had to return to the Stated for family reasons, so she had to look for another coach. She returned to her former trainer Bennema and you saw the changes immediately after a few months..........less bulky, lost a lot of muscled weight, got her elegance more and more back and more important...her turbo!!! And as a result, her times start to get competitive again.

I never was fan on the 'powered' and very muscular Dafne as she lost everything athletic fans loved about her. Go Dafne!!

Just goes to show that sometimes muscles aren't the answer for everything. Muscles are also heavier and you end up being in situation when the tail wags the dog. You have to gain more power to be quicker and that means more muscles and more weight. And so on. 

And training your ass off isn't really the wisest thing, either. It's that holy triangle of proper training, proper nutrition and proper rest. Rest is a weapon as they say. Our young hurdler-talent Nooralotta Neziri found that out the hard way, when she started suffering from symptoms of severe over training a couple of years ago. At her worst, she couldn't run a half a mile because of these symptoms. 

You have to be careful when you train. Sometimes less is more. 

And the obligatory hockey-stuff, since I'm the hockey-minister of the forum:giggle:.

Regular season ended in Finnish league today. In their last game of regular season HPK won Tappara (means Battleaxe in english) from Tampere and ended up in fifth spot after regular season. This was their first victory against Tappara in I don't even remember how many years (Tappara has been in the finals for 6 seasons in a row now and won 2 championships). So the team has been a huge obstacle for HPK during this decade. 

They start their playoffs against TPS from Turku next Thursday. Financially this season has all ready been very successful. Eventually the team ended having the second best spectator average (from the time we have records). A few youngsters had their breakthrough seasons, most notably 20-year old Jere Innala,  who scored 24 goals during the regular season and ended up in 4th spot in leagues scoring. Future looks very bright now and I've all ready heard rumors of rather nice contracts for next season. Which is also HPK's 90th birthday-season. Most importantly they've also managed to continue contracts with players like Innala and also other key players from this team. And there is also a couple of very promising youngsters ready to start their careers. Yes, future looks sunny, now. That's what you get, when you hire right people for the right spots. You can do miracles even with limited means. 

But first things first. The playoff-format in Finnish league has a "wild card" round first. 7th after the regular season (a team called Lukko, means Lock, from Rauma) meets the 10th (JYP from Jyväskylä). The 8th (Ilves, means Bobcat, from Tampere) is against the 9th (SaiPa from Lappeenranta). This stage is played with best-out-of-three format (aka two wins required to clinch the spot to quarterfinals). The winners of their wild card rounds will go to quarterfinal-stage against the winner and second after regular season (Kärpät, Oulu and Tappara, Tampere). 3rd after regular season (Pelicans, Lahti) meets 6th (IFK, Helsinki) and 4th (TPS, Turku) meets 5th (HPK, Hämeenlinna). 

Quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are played with best-out-of-7 method. Meaning 4 victories is required to win the series. So, in theory it's possible for a "wild card"round team to play a 24 game playoff-spring. And the 10th after regular season can win the championship. But of course that's very unlikely.  And the games are also sudden death-games. If the game is a tie after 60 minutes of hockey, they will play 20-minute overtime-periods until someone scores a goal. The longest game played was Ilves-IFK during the spring of 2015. It finally ended after 134 minutes of hockey.

So it's time to start growing my playoff-beard:D. It's hopefully one and a half months of thriller after thriller. 

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@Harvest

I think you got a lot of pucks between your left and right ear, minister!!!!!!!!!!:P

 

Alright Valteri. Well done! But now keep on going and give that that horrid  Louise Hamilton a year long beating!! Apart from Max in the first place, I want you to become world champion! (but I still got major doubts if he can carry it to the end).  

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On 3/18/2019 at 12:22 AM, hunebedbouwer said:

@Harvest

I think you got a lot of pucks between your left and right ear, minister!!!!!!!!!!:P

 

And after playoffs, it's world championships-time. It's hard to be a hockey minister. :D.

But hockey actually offers some escape from my real endeavor at the moment. I'm trying to improve my deadlift and front squat results and I have been lifting and squatting stuff so much lately that my head is actually full of barbells at the moment. Talk about upcoming midlife crisis. What's next, Harley Davidson and a skull tattoo on the chest?

Hockey helps to clear your head. And Dutch heavy metal as well:music:.

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11 hours ago, Evangeline said:

. Almost felt as if you were a friend of mine! ;)

Pretty common phenomenon going on these days:D.

9 hours ago, hunebedbouwer said:

@Harvest

Stay off the steroids, please!!!:D

 

Roids are for beginners. True warriors use Oat Meal. Come to think of it, that's also one thing coming out my ears. 

Watching this one again:

This is for AMERICAAHH!!!!!

 

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HPK is now leading the quarter-final series against TPS with 3 victories to 1. Friday they have their first shot at semifinals. That would be the first time since 2010 HPK has made it to semifinals. Keeping my thumbs up. Young TPS-player, Kaapo Kakko, will be a force to reckon with in the future. Wouldn't be surprised at all if this guy will be a superstar in the NHL-level in few years. 

@hunebedbouwer,

Motorsports.....still remember the "killer b's", Hune?

I've been on a memory lane and watching lots of clips from that era of motor sports lately. Back in the 80's Group A meant a lot of restrictions concerning the weight and power of the cars. And the base models of the cars also had to be mass produced. Group B was established as a competition for Group A, with far less restrictions on the design, weight and power of the cars. They also allowed so called evolution-models.  What happened wasn't a surprise. The cars got lighter, with much more horse powers and all kinds of new inventions were established, starting with revolutionary four-wheel drive by Audi, legendary Audi Quattro. 

The peak of the B-Group was a monster by Lancia. Lancia Delta S4. Turbocharger combined with supercharger to get rid of the turbo lag, four-wheeldrive with +550 horse powers. The car was very light and went from 0 to 100 in just under 3 seconds. Finnish driver, Henri Toivonen said in one interview that this car was too fast for human brains to digest on those roads they were driving. 

During this time rally also became very popular. The crowds got bigger and mayhem ensued when spectators were standing everywhere on the road, even trying to touch the cars when they were flying past them. Moving away in the very last second. The scene was just crazy. 

Of course, it didn't take long until the bodies started piling up. Finnish driver Ari Vatanen drove his Peugeot 205 of the road in Argentina and spend 18 months recovering. Attilio Bettega crashed his Lancia 037 in Corsica and died. During the Portuguese Rally of -86 Jorge Santos tried to avoid hitting a group of spectators and this caused him to lose control of his car. His car the slid of the road and hit a bunch of spectators. 3 were killed. And then in Corsica, year after Bettega's fatal crash, Henri Toivonen plunged of the road with his S4. The car burned and Toivonen and his co-driver, Sergio Cresto both died. 

This marked the end for Group B, which was deemed too dangerous and the next season the car manufacturers returned to A Group rules. I never had the opportunity these monsters live. The first thousand lake rally I ever saw was right after B Group had ended. Nowadays the cars are even faster, but I guess they are also more manageable due to modern technology. For many fans of motor sports this was the ultimate era of driving. Sad it had to have it's casualties as well. 

 

And am I the only one who thinks that Lancia 037 was the best looking sports car of all time?

2880-1800-crop-lancia-rally-037-c3279120

An old clip,  Markku Álen testing 037 in Finland. 

 

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@Harvest

There are a lot of Kakko's in Finland, aren't there?

 

To be honest.......I never cared much for motorsports in my life. More than other sports, it's more about having good material than in purely physical/non-engine sports. I mean, Louise Hamilton would never have become world champion if he had driven a Sauber.

But a bit of national spirited feeling drove me to follow F1 because of Max. So young and talented, so audacious/reckless.....yeah that was enough to draw me in. And he is the first proper Dutch driver to be in a seriously good team. I followed F1 Always from the corner of my eyes and thought the first corner of a race was the best thing.:music::giggle: So, not really a fan. It has changed a bit, but I do prefer proper sports which involve proper physical action like cycling, football, athletics and the lot. Just watched the CAPE EPIC SERIES in mountainbiking and just ....wow!!!! Hours on end just racing and one mistake and you're gone.....crashed, hurt, bike in ruins.....the lot.

 

So, sorry, I've never heard of those series you wrote about. But I know car racing in about every series is quite popular in Finland. Any particular reason? The youth nothing else to do during the winter than making the roads unsafe?:D We can't do that here anyway (a lot of offroad racing), because the lack of space and most uninhabited space is or agricultural space or nature reserve.

A bit off/on topic, but a lot of those spectators watching rally racing must surely be the most imbecilic 'sports fans' of all time!!!! Standing alongside tracks, in dangerous corners.........a lot of them must have a death wish or so. And some do take their children with them!!!! Truly unbelievable!!! 

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On 3/28/2019 at 11:32 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

@Harvest

There are a lot of Kakko's in Finland, aren't there?

Not that many actually. But it isn't a completely unusual surname, either.

But this Kakko is truly one special talent. Experts are saying he will be drafted to NHL as nr. 2 overall. Being the fourth Finn to be drafted as nr. 2 (goalie Kari Lehtonen, center Aleksander Barkov jr. and winger Patrik Laine being the other players). Some speculate he could even be the first ever nr.1 Finnish draft pick, but I'm putting my money on USA-player Jack Hughes. But we will see.

And. After 8 seasons of waiting HPK finally did it. It's semifinals this year. The fifth quarterfinal went overtime, but the captain of our team, Otto Paajanen, scored a sudden death goal. It's either Kärpät from Oulu or Tappara from Tampere (depending on how the ongoing series between Lahti team Pelicans and IFK from Helsinki will end), in either case these teams are the biggest favorites to win the championship yet again. Kärpät has won 3 titles in the last 5 years and Tappara has been in the finals for 6 seasons in a row, winning two championships. You might call these teams the Real Madrid and Barcelona of Finnish Hockey League.

So I'm not really putting my money on HPK. But sometimes weird things happen and there is a thing called fool's hope. 

On 3/28/2019 at 11:32 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

 

 

But a bit of national spirited feeling drove me to follow F1 because of Max. So young and talented, so audacious/reckless.....yeah that was enough to draw me in. And he is the first proper Dutch driver to be in a seriously good team. 

Yeah, it often draws your attention, when your countrymen start to be successful. Personally I haven't followed F1 since the days of Häkkinen vs. Schumi. Back in those our commercial channel MTV3 had the rights to F1, so F1 wasn't on pay-per-view. Nowadays you have to buy some package full of channels you don't need and I don't want that. Plus I've never cared for Räikkönen that much. So, in this case I lost my interest to these events for many reasons. Schumacher's dominance also being one of them .

On 3/28/2019 at 11:32 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

 

It has changed a bit, but I do prefer proper sports which involve proper physical action like cycling, football, athletics and the lot. Just watched the CAPE EPIC SERIES in mountainbiking and just ....wow!!!! Hours on end just racing and one mistake and you're gone.....crashed, hurt, bike in ruins.....the lot.

Those bicycle-drivers must be in top shape. I've never really followed that sport, but now I have a mountain bike and there are all kinds of trails in the woods nearby. Maybe I should try that as well during the summer.

On 3/28/2019 at 11:32 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

 

So, sorry, I've never heard of those series you wrote about. But I know car racing in about every series is quite popular in Finland. Any particular reason? The youth nothing else to do during the winter than making the roads unsafe?:D We can't do that here anyway (a lot of offroad racing), because the lack of space and most uninhabited space is or agricultural space or nature reserve.

A bit off/on topic, but a lot of those spectators watching rally racing must surely be the most imbecilic 'sports fans' of all time!!!! Standing alongside tracks, in dangerous corners.........a lot of them must have a death wish or so. And some do take their children with them!!!! Truly unbelievable!!! 

By comparison, modern WRC-cars have around 300 horse powers. B-group cars had, in some cases, more than 400 (and in some cases, like the Lancia Delta S4, even 600+). Some of them, like that 037, were still a rear-wheel drive. You put that much power on a rear-wheel drive. The steering, the suspension, all old -fashioned by modern standards. The cars were mostly plastic, modern safety measures were still in the future. The gas tanks right in the middle, just under the drivers. Jesus, those drivers really had to know what they were doing.

And to make it even worse, that crowd. I saw an interview on one of those clips. It was Michéle Mouton, a crazy French woman, driving the Audi Quattro (and btw. nearly winning the championship). She said she started thinking that the crowd was trees and stones and other stuff. The logic behind that being that you try to avoid hitting trees and other stuff while you drive. Thinking that these were living, breathing human beings was just too harsh for her. On the other hand you had to drive really fast and try to win, on the other you don't want kill anyone. It never should have been that way.

I don't know why we Finns are so good in motor sports. Maybe we are just that crazy. Even the B-series era with those monster cars was dominated by Finnish drivers. You had Mouton, Walter Röhrl and Stig Blomqvist as top drivers, of course.  But then there was the Finnish bunch: Markku Alén, Timo Salonen, Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Hannu Mikkola and Henri Toivonen.  Those were the times. Crazy cars, crazy drivers, crazy audience. 

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It started snowing again after couple of weeks of absolutely beautiful spring weather. I live in the south so the worst of that goes north off us, but in the central parts they are predicting half of  a meter of that stuff. Two things: road dust has been a major problem lately, since it has been so dry and people still drive with their winter tires with spikes in them. The raining should clear the air. And of course now I have a good excuse to locking myself indoors and start preparing for tonight's game. 

It's HPK vs. Tampere-team Tappara in the semifinals, then. A little recap, Tappara (meaning Battleaxe) has been Finnish leagues top team for years in a row now. They have an ongoing , six season-long streak in the finals and that's a record in Finnish league. They have won the title twice (2016, 2017). Against HPK, Tappara has dominated for years now. During the era of our current coach, Antti Pennanen, HPK hasn't won a single game in Tampere in last three seasons. And since the best-of-seven-series started in Tampere, HPK needs at least one victory in Tampere, while beating them in their home ground. 

Two games in to the series, there are promising signs, though. The first game in Tampere went by following the usual manuscript. Tappara had the upper hand, HPK couldn't create good scoring chances (Tappara is always known for their rock solid defensive game, it's a franchise trademark). And HPK was careless, the younger players took a few stupid penalties. One of them cost the game, when Tappara scored a powerplay-goal 4 seconds before second period ended.  And that was enough. That's how good that Tappara-defense is. They just need one goal to win. 

The next game in Hämeenlinna started with that same manuscript. HPK just couldn't find a cure for that Tappara defense and on the other hand Tappara created a few good scoring chances of their own in the first. Until HPK-winger, Markus Nenonen, scored a goal after HPK won a offensive-zone face off. And I think that was the "yes we can"-moment for the younger, more inexperienced HPK-team. This is a series between David and Goliath and HPK needed something to boost their self confidence. Tappara tied the game, but still all in all HPK started turning the series around. 

And the third period was best the HPK I've seen in years. HPK was basically all over the older, more experienced Tappara. Three goals, two goal posts, at least half a dozen great scoring chances saved by Tappara-goalie Christian Heljanko. Tappara was basically in the ropes for the whole period. 

But, the fine thing about these playoff-games is that you need four victories to clinch a series. And today it's Hakametsä-arena in Tampere, again. It's been three years since HPK has won in Hakametsä and as a HPK-fan I do know how agonizing these kinds of loss-streaks  can be. Back when now KHL-team, Jokerit from Helsinki, was still playing in the Finnish league, HPK had a similar fear for their home rink, Hartwall-arena. I don't remember how long these streaks off losses could get, but basically it didn't matter how well HPK played, they always ended up losing in Hartwall-arena. They could play a fantastic game there, but still there would be those couple of lucky bounces for Jokerit. It was frustrating to watch and I can imagine how bad that was for the players. No matter what you do, you will just lose. 

Before this turns into a similar nightmare, this young HPK-team must win their phobia for Hakametsä. And tonight is a great change for them after that last games domination. The manuscript will once again that rock-solid defense by Tappara, but at least this time HPK-players now how to break it. And they have that self confidence, they actually know they can break it. It's also a fact that every streak will end someday. HPK has an opportunity to end their streak in Hakametsä. And they also have an opportunity to be the team that finally dropped Tappara from the finals. Let's see how this goes. 

The another semifinal-series,  Kärpät from Oulu vs. IFK, Helsinki is tied at two victories for both. Kärpät is another top-team of Finnish league. Since they returned to the league in 2000 after a decade in lower levels and a bankruptcy, Kärpät have established themselves as team for "half of Finland". It's the northernmost team in Finnish league and thus they have a wide area for picking promising juniors. And Oulu has also been a rather vital financial crossing in Finland, so their financial means are also much better than the rest of the league. So they have won 7 titles since their return to the league (2004,2005,2007,2008,2014,2015,2018), lost two final series (2003,2009), won bronzes twice (2006,2016). During the era of Tappara-finals streak, there have been three Kärpät-Tappara final-series already (-14, 15 and last season).

Of course it isn't the team's fault that they overrun a league, but it would be refreshing to see something else for a change. So with this series I'm actually in the bandwagon of IFK. Not only because IF this would turn out to be a HPK-IFK final-year, HPK has lot's of great memories of IFK as an opponent in playoffs. Most of all 2006, when HPK won their only championship after beating IFK in the semifinal-stage. And secondly, for some reason, HPK vs. IFK games have always been very audience-friendly, offensive-minded, physical and entertaining hockey. 

But first things first. Couple of cold ones to the freezer and towards tonight's game. I hope it's a good one. And to get in a right mood, HPK's entrance song in Hämeenlinna. 

A7X - Shepherd of Fire :horns::horns::horns:

 

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@Harvest

You're not gonna believe it, but the Netherlands did become WORLD CHAMPION ice-hockey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our ladies have won the C-championships winning all matches and will promote to the next level!!!:D:giggle: Not bad for the few hundred female ice-hockeyers that live over here, is it?

 

Okay, now over to cycling and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

 

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On 4/9/2019 at 12:57 PM, Harvest said:

Of course it isn't the team's fault that they overrun a league, but it would be refreshing to see something else for a change. So with this series I'm actually in the bandwagon of IFK. Not only because IF this would turn out to be a HPK-IFK final-year, HPK has lot's of great memories of IFK as an opponent in playoffs. Most of all 2006, when HPK won their only championship after beating IFK in the semifinal-stage. And secondly, for some reason, HPK vs. IFK games have always been very audience-friendly, offensive-minded, physical and entertaining hockey. 

As an HIFK fan, I would like to see Kärpät and Tappara playing for bronze.

 

2 hours ago, hunebedbouwer said:

You're not gonna believe it, but the Netherlands did become WORLD CHAMPION ice-hockey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our ladies have won the C-championships winning all matches and will promote to the next level!!!:D:giggle: Not bad for the few hundred female ice-hockeyers that live over here, is it?

That's impressive. As for us, the third place is probably the best we can get this year (as every year).

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On 4/12/2019 at 3:42 PM, hunebedbouwer said:

@Harvest

You're not gonna believe it, but the Netherlands did become WORLD CHAMPION ice-hockey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our ladies have won the C-championships winning all matches and will promote to the next level!!!:D:giggle: Not bad for the few hundred female ice-hockeyers that live over here, is it?

Congrats:D. Our ladies are against the Canadians in the semis, so it's the bronze game again. 

On 4/12/2019 at 6:41 PM, whitenoise said:

As an HIFK fan, I would like to see Kärpät and Tappara playing for bronze.

There's still hope. Nothing but home victories so far. I hope IFK ties the series next Monday in Helsinki and then it's anyone's game. 

HPK-Tappara now tied 2-2. HPK couldn't beat the ongoing Hakametsä-phobia and lost in overtime. Back to Hämeenlinna and bad news hit, because the team had a flu going on, which sidelined our best player Teemu Turunen, nr. 1 center Niclas Lucenius and top defense man Niklas Friman. The team took a few junior-level players on their roster and played like there was no tomorrow and managed to tie the series, also on overtime. God dammit, this is not good for my heart. Hope these guys can play tomorrow.

Tomorrow,  if Hockey Gods should allow, maybe finally HPK wins in Hakametsä. It's now 8 losses in a row in Tampere. This has got to end. 

EDIT.

Our ladies won their game against Canada and made history. This is their first final. Congratulations. 

And HPK finally managed to beat Tappara in their home rink. Series is now 3-2 to HPK. But, if there is one team in this league, which can still turn things around, it is Tappara. The series is over when it is over. 

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Exciting game on this Sunday!  Suomi vs. USA oh my........:dwarf:  May the underdog win big!

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What the hell happened in women's final?  As far as I know the game, that was a good goal. The US goalie jumps into the legs of Hiirikoski., is outside the crease, is even getting a penalty. Still no goal. Now I've seen everything. 

But hats of for the ladies for winning the silver. At least now they know they can beat every team. 

 

And HPK made it to finals by winning Tappara 4-3 in their home arena. Against Oulu team Kärpät. Interesting series to see, Finnish national team's assistant coaches Mikko Manner and Antti Pennanen against each other. 

I've been through those agonizing seasons between 2010 and 2016 when HPK was in a death spiral. Economy was bad, coaches were bad, basically everything that could go wrong went wrong. Firing coaches, signing players that couldn't make it in Finnish league level. 

That all changed, when HPK hired Antti Pennanen as their head coach. Now three seasons and he has turned this franchise into a potential candidate for championship. A year ago they also hired Mika Toivola for Sports Manager, with that move Pennanen could focus more on actually coaching the team instead of player signing and that has been the second major difference. Toivola has done a good job so far, most notably signing Niclas Lucenius to the team. 

Lucenius was once a very potential young player, but he has had some difficulties with off-ice activities and that has kept him in leagues below his pay grade. Rumor has it, that the guy likes to party a bit. That doesn't fit well with sportsman-like life. But HPK took a risk with this player, gave him a chance and now that decision is paying dividends. Lucenius is a bit on the artist-side of hockey-players, an old-fashioned center with lots of creativity and great passing skills. Sometimes these guys can be a bit difficult  to coach, but there's also that upside. Lucenius thanked for the chance he got and now he scored the deciding goal of that Tappara-series. 

This is how this team should operate. When you don't have the financial means to compete, you have to think differently. You have to grow the players. You have to take guys like Lucenius and give them a chance. You have to compete with tactics, have a good coach to do that.

This is the way this team did things back in the day, when they were constantly one of the best teams in the league. Have good people in right spots. 

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