This past weekend I published the first installment of the “Get to know…” series, which means you’ve probably wowed several people with your wealth of knowledge on hockey in Switzerland (and the awesome Swiss cow wearing a hat picture). In preparation for dinner table talk this weekend, today’s post is all about Finland’s top-tier league, SM-liiga.
Before I started banging on the keyboard (yes, banging, this whole NHL lockout thing is causing me to have a poor attitude) about SM-liiga, I decided it would be appropriate to do a little research on the Nordic country. Here are the top three things I learned about Finland:
1. Because there are so many lakes and wooded areas, Finland is home to a whopping 35 species of mosquitoes. Suddenly, my backyard doesn’t seem so bad…
2. Finland is home to the Nokia Corporation, the self-proclaimed leading mobile phone provider. They are responsible for sweet phones like this, this and this (okay, maybe not the last one, but seriously, when will I ever have a chance to reference the Zack Morris brick phone on this site again?)
3. The country is known for this. That’s right folks, the Finns love their saunas. So much, in fact, that they used to host the World Sauna Championship. Basically, a group of crazy people, I mean, competitors sit in a sauna that starts off at 210 degrees F and whoever lasts the longest wins. The league no longer exists since someone someone keeled over during the last event (I think we can all agree that this is a pretty good reason to disband a league). I guess if the lockout situation gets bad enough we can get Steve Stamkos, John Tavares, Alexander Ovechkin and 20 other brave souls to bring back the compitition! I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want to sit in a 210 degree sweat box with Ovie?
Now that you know the most important facts about Finland, lets take a look at SM-liiga, shall we?
- Countries with SM-liiga teams: Finland (14)
- 2011-2012 Champions: JYP
- Year founded: 1975
- Number of regular season games: 60
Much like the NLA, SM-liiga has a very different season format that what you’d see in the AHL or NHL. In a nutshell, the top six teams automatically head to the playoffs at the end of the regular season. Teams ranked 7-10 play against each other and the two teams that come out of top joins the top six to compete for the championship. SM-liiga used to have relegation like the NLA, but that ended prior to the 2000-2001 season. I also read varying reports that the last place SM-liiga team faces the top Mestis team (compare it to the AHL) in a best of seven series, but promotions of Mestis teams are not automatic.
According to discoveringfinland.com, hockey is the most watched and televised sport in Finland, and the SM-liiga is ranked the second-strongest league in all of Europe. Helsinki’s Jokerit has the largest arena in the league, Hartwall Areena, which seats 13,500 (which is in sharp contrast to Rauma Lukko, whose arena Kivikylan Areena holds just 5,400.
A slew of NHLers made a beeline for Europe when the NHL locked its players out in mid-September, and a good number of them headed to SM-liiga to wait it out until Grandpa Bettman lets everyone back in the house, I mean, NHL. Former Milwaukee Admiral and Stanley Cup champ Rich Peverley signed with JYP on September 24th, and Valterri Filpulla, Sean Bergenheim and Erik Karlsson all are confirmed transfers to other rosters in the league.
On a side note, former Milwaukee Admiral goaltender and proud Finland native Pekka Rinne played in the Karpat system (for both SM-liiga and SM-liiga junior) for five seasons before making his maiden voyage to the Brew City.
So there you have it folks, a recap of the important nuggets of knowledge about Finland’s SM-liiga. In my last article, I told you to wow your cohorts with facts about Marc Crawford. Today, my piece of information to impress everyone at the Friday Fish Fry is “Did you know that Belarusian Natallia Tryfanava was the first non-Fin to win the Finnish-dominated World Sauna Championships? She broke Finland’s streak in 2003, and went on to win the 2004 and 2005 women’s titles as well. On the men’s side, Finland dominated and won every single title in the league’s 11 years.
And if all else fails, I suggest impressing them the picture of the Swiss cow wearing the flag hat again.