As the cobwebs of jetlag continue to brush off everyone’s brain, Ducks fans got to enjoy the final pre-season game of the year in person in Helsinki, Finland. Playing against Jokerit, Teemu Selanne’s former team, gave everyone a glimpse of just how huge Selannemania is in Finland.
Jokerit is no slouch of a team and provided a very good test for the Ducks preparedness for opening night against the Buffalo Sabres in the same Hartwall Areena.
A pre-game ceremony (in Finnish only) honored both Jari Kurri, whose jersey is hanging in the rafters of the arena, and Teemu Selanne. Fans on the Road Crew trip had prime seats to witness everything just a few rows up from the glass smack in the middle of the arena. Can you say pampered and treated well?
The Ducks were well received by Finnish fans, although when it came down to it, Jokerit was where their loyalties lay. The two men in front of me even joked in Finnish that they were spotting the team a goal when Corey Perry got on the board first at 6:12 of the opening period. There had been NHL highlights before the game, and Perry’s goal was just as pretty as those on the highlight reel.
Anaheim extended their lead with a power play goal from Perry (assisted by Selanne) at 12:10. That did not sit well with Jokerit fans, who wanted their team to defeat Anaheim, even if Selanne was wearing a Ducks jersey. He once wore the Joker logo of Jokerit a mere 20+ years ago when he was about Cam Fowler’s age, but that did not matter to the Finns.
It could have been 3-0 at the end of the first period, but the bell sounded right before the puck crossed the goal line on another power play opportunity.
In the second period, Jokerit worked their butts off and therefore forced Jonas Hiller to work his off as well. Save after save, he performed in net as well as he did last season before vertigo sidelined him. Jokerit fans were looking at all the Ducks fans accusingly, as if we had anything to do with stopping pucks. Some of us actually apologized for Hiller’s excellent performance, because we were just so happy to see Hiller being his old self.
Hiller could not stop everything, though. Tomas Kivisto finally got a puck through at 18:56 of the middle frame, giving fans something to cheer about.
It was shortlived.
Jokerit continued to work hard in the third period and came back to within one goal at 1:33 thanks to Riku Hahl. Former NHLer, Ben Eaves, tied up the game at 16:03, to the delight of the crowd, who went wild. Unable to resolve the tied score before regulation, the game went into overtime. No matter who won the game, it was an excellent tilt regardless.
The Ducks did finish their Finnish foes in OT with a goal from Ryan Getzlaf at 1:13 and everyone ended with handshakes and salutes to the crowd of nearly 14,000 people.
The amazing thing was the fans. Even though we were the visiting team, we were greeted cordially and respectfully and the passion of the Jokerit fans was amazing, from the top of the building down to the glass. Everyone was there because they love and support their team.
It was a great way for the Ducks to finish the pre-season and move on to opening night Friday. That game can be seen by all Ducks fan, not just those who spent money on a trek to Finland.
IN OTHER NOTES:
Kurtis Foster played in his first Ducks game after having gotten the ok from doctors. Foster had surgery two weeks ago to remove a wire in his thigh that had been bothering his knee.
Congratulations to George and Tiffany Parros on the birth of their twins, a boy and a girl. Parros missed the birth by being in Finland. I’m sure the kids will never hear the end of that as they grow up.
Food at the Hartwall Areena is not significantly better quality than the Honda Center but even with the Euro exchange rate, it is much less expensive.