March 04, 2014

The Historic Outdoor Classic No One Is Talking About

Immediately following the gold medal game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics I left on autopilot and headed to California for a week of Mickey Mouse and sunshine only to find the worst rain storms in years.

I was only gone a week but it sure seems like a lot has happened since the gold medal game. Let's see - Buffalo traded away their beloved star goalie and captain only to have their Hall of Fame president resign only 4 months into the job. Pittsburgh and Chicago played in an epic snowstorm. Vancouver continued to make a laughing fool of themselves in the Heritage Classic where the roof remained closed.

Speaking of outdoor games, not nearly enough mention was made of another outdoor game last week - a game of truly epic proportions.

The two fiercest rivals in Finland's top hockey league - SM Liiga - faced off before 23,000 fans at Helsinki's Olympic Stadion. But this was not just another outdoor game. It was the last ever match between eternal rivals Jokerit and Helsinki IFK (or HIFK).

Jokerit - which translates to Jokers or Jesters in English - is leaving SM Liiga after this season to join the KHL. Founded in 1967, the six time Finnish champions boast Teemu Selanne, Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen amongst their alumni.

HIFK have been around in some form since 1897 but it wasn't until 1968 when Toronto Maple Leafs star Carl Brewer arrived  that HIFK and Finnish hockey were brought into the modern era. Matti Hagman, Olli Jokinen and Sami Kapanen are among the alumni.

The matches - termed derbies overseas - between Jokerit and HIFK have become among the most fierce in hockey anywhere in the world. And what made the final match between the two so fascinating is they entered the game with the all-time series deadlocked. Many sources say the record was Jokerit 96 - HIFK 96. Others say it was tied at 106 wins each.

HIFK would win the final match by a score of 2-1 and claim eternal victory over their rivals. At least for now.

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