Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tupu, Hupu and Lupu (Huey, Dewey and Louie)

Yesterday at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Tournament in Helsinki, Finland, the Finland National Team retired the numbers of #11 Saku Koivu, #26 Jere Lehtinen and #16 Ville Peltonen, all heroes of Finland's first World Championship gold medal in 1995.

 photo Koivu Peltonen and Lehtinen jersey retirement.jpg
The jersey retirement ceremony for Koivu, Lehtinen and Peltonen

To put that achievement in perspective, Finland first appeared at the World Championships in 1939 and being regular participants since 1949, but sthey did not earn their first medal until 1988 with a 2-1 win over the Soviet Union at the Olympics in Canada, a span of nearly 40 years. Their first World Championship success would come in 1992 with a silver medal in Czechoslovakia after a loss in the final game to Nordic arch-rivals Sweden.

They followed that with a disappointing 7th place at the World Championships in 1993, their lowest finish since 1983, before rebounding with another silver in 1994 in Italy after losing in the final in a shootout to Canada, just three months after earning a bronze medal at the Olympics in Norway.

Now having arrived as serious contenders on the international stage, they entered the 1995 World Championships aiming for the top after their previous close calls. The Finns were led by a line known as "Tupu, Hupu and Lupu", Finnish for Huey, Dewey and Louie, the triplet nephews of Disney cartoon character Donald Duck.

Tupu, Hupu and Lupu photo TupuHupuLupu.jpg
Hupu, Tupu and Lupu

Lehtinen (Lupu), made his international debut at age 19 in the 1992 World Championships, Koivu (Tupu) arrived in 1993, at age 19, in the World Championships and Peltonen (Hupu) completed the line when the trio first played together during Pelotnen's international debut at the 1994 Olympics at age 20.

While Finland's past history was barren of medals and championships, Tupu, Hupu and Lupu entered the 1995 World Championships with Lehtinen (two silvers and a bronze in three years of international experience), Koivu (a silver and a bronze in two years) and Peltonen (a silver and a bronze after one year) as winners with high expectations.

Those expectations met with a rude awakening in the form of a 3-0 shutout loss to the Czech Republic in their opening game. They quickly got back on the right track with a decisive 6-3 win over rivals and tournament host Sweden. The Finns took care of business with expected wins over Norway (5-2) and Austria (7-2). They completed their First Round group play with a 4-4 tie with the United States to finish in second place in the group.

Finland easily advanced in the quarterfinals with a 5-0 win over France and got revenge for their only loss of the tournament against the Czech Republic in the form of another 3-0 Semifinal shutout, only this time in favor of Finland to set up a gold medal final against hosts Sweden.

Peltonen was the star of the show, scoring the first goal to give Finland a first period lead after making a drop pass at the blueline before putting the rebound of a teammate's blast into a wide open goal.

Peltonen goal #1 photo Peltonen Koivu celebrate 1995.jpg
Peltonen and Koivu celebrate the first Finnish goal

During the second period, Peltonen scored his second goal after receiving a pass from center ice at the blueline. He simply wound up and fired a slapshot past the Swedish goaltender, launching his water bottle into the air like a celebratory firework to put Finland up 2-0.

Peltonen then completed the natural hat trick after a beautiful effort. Peltonen gained the Sweden zone on the right, made a drop pass back to Koivu who then made a cross-ice pass to defenseman Mika Stromberg who was streaking in unguarded on the left. Stromberg blew around the flat footed Swedish defense, cut to the net and slammed on the brakes. He tried to move the puck from his backhand to his forehand but lost control of the puck, which slid right across the crease to Peltonen, by now stationed on the right side of the goal where he had another easy tap in with just four seconds remaining in the second to give Finland a commanding three goal lead heading into the final period.

Peltonen goal #3 photo Finland Goal 1995.jpg
Stromberg and Koivu celebrate as Peltonen is elated
after completing his hat trick

Not quite finished yet, Peltonen assisted on the fourth Finnish goal when he fed the puck back to the blueline and defenseman Timo Jutila fired the puck through everyone for a back-breaking 4-0 lead and a goal celebration that took him the entire length of the ice.

Sweden was able to spoil the shutout to make the final score 4-1 after a fluky, high arching deflection was misplayed by goaltender Jarmo Myllys who otherwise stood tall in goal, earning the victory for the new World Champions.

 photo Finland gold 1995.jpg
The party has only just begun as Finland poses
after winning their first world championship

Lehtinen, Koivu and Peltonen were all named to the tournament All-Star Team, with Koivu being named Best Forward. To rub their victory in, the head coach of the Finnish team, Swede Curt Lindström, took his team to Sergels torg, the central public square in Stockholm, the traditional site for public recognition of Swedish sporting successes, and brought 15,000 wildly celebrating Finnish fans with to share in the joy, which they did by singing the official Swedish song of the 1995 World Championship, "Den Glider In (It Glides In)".

Finland received a massive welcome home back in Tampere, Finland, with the celebrations being televised  live to a thrilled national audience.

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Finland celebrates their first World Championship after arriving back home

Internationally, Koivu began his career for Finland at the 1992 European U18 Junior Tournament. In 1993 he competed in both the World Junior U20 tournament as well as making his World Championship debut with the senior level team. Still eligible for the U20 squad in 1994, he played in not only the World Juniors, but also the 1994 Olympics, earning a bronze, as well as the World Championships later that spring where he took home a silver. In all, Koivu scored 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 23 games that year.

1995 saw him earn his famous gold medal at the World Championships while wearing the "A" for the first time. 1996 saw him compete at the first World Cup of Hockey followed by the 1997 World Championships. He was first named captain of the Finnish National Team in 1998 at his second Olympics (earning a bronze) and would continue to wear the "C" for the remainder of his career.

Koivu would go on to play in the World Championships in 1999 (silver), 2003 and 2008 (bronze) as his NHL duties as captain of the Montreal Canadiens would allow. He would also compete for Finland at the Olympics in 2006 (silver) and 2010 (bronze) as well as earning a runner-up finish at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

During his career, Koivu would compete in the European Junior Championships once, two World Juniors, seven World Championships, four Olympics (medaling each time) and a pair of World Cups, earning one gold, four silver and four bronze medals. He was the leading scorer at both the 1998 and 2006 Olympics and named the Best Forward at the 1995 and 1999 World Championships, where he also led the tournament in scoring. In all, Koivu would score 30 goals and 94 points for Finland at the senior level in 89 games.

Koivu Finland 2010 Olympics photo Koivu Finland 2010 Olympics.jpg
Saku Koivu

Lehtinen competed for Finland at the 1990 and 1991 European U18 Junior Tournament and the 1991, 1992 and 1993 World Juniors. At the senior level, he made his World Championship debut in 1992 (winning a silver medal) and his first Olympic Games came in 1994 which resulted in a bronze.

Other World Championships followed in 1994 (silver), 1995 (gold) and 2007 (silver). He also competed in further Olympics in 1998 (bronze), 2002, 2006 (silver) and 2010 (bronze). He also was on the runner-up squad at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

In all, Lehtinen would compete at two European Junior Championships, three World Juniors, four World Championships, five Olympics and one World Cup of Hockey for Finland earning one gold medal, four silver and three bronze medals while scoring 22 goals and 49 points in 72 games for Finland at the senior level.

Lehtinen Finland 2010 Olympics photo Lehtinen Finland 2010 Olympics.jpg
Jere Lehtinen

Peltonen's international resume boasts a first appearance at the 1991 European U18 Junior Tournament, followed by the 1993 World Juniors. He then graduated to the senior level at the 1994 Olympics where the 19 year old was one of the team's assistant captains on the silver medal winning squad.

That was immediately followed later that spring with his first World Championship, also earning a sliver. He returned to the World Championships in 1995 to capture Finland's first gold thanks to his natural hat trick in the final. Another World Championships came in the spring of 1996 followed by the World Cup of Hockey later that fall. He competed at the World Championships again in 1997 and 1998 (silver), the 1998 Olympics (bronze), and World Championships in 1999 (sliver), 2000 (bronze), 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 (bronze), 2007 (silver) and 2008 (bronze), serving as team captain in Koivu's absence in 1998 and 2004 through 2008.

He also competed in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey (runner-up), the Olympics in 2006 (silver) and 2010 (bronze), where he was honored as the flag bearer for Finland.

In total, Peltonen would compete at one European U18 Junior Tournament, one World Juniors, two World Cups, 13 World Championships and four Olympics, earning one gold, five silver and six bronze medals while scoring 46 goals and 107 points in 137 games at the senior level.

 photo Peltonen Finland 2008 WC.jpg
Ville Peltonen

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Lehtinen, Koivu and Peltonen enjoying their final success as a trio
at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver where they won bronze medals

Today's first featured jersey is a 1995 Finland National Team Saku Koivu jersey. This is the same style jersey used in the 1994 Olympic games and, while branded as a Reebok jersey, they were produced by Tackla using their mesh fabric and dye sublimation process. Visually, the only difference between the Olympic jerseys and the World Championship versions are the additions of the Warsteiner sponsorship patches to each arm.

Finland 1995 road jersey photo Finland 1995 R F.jpg
Finland 1995 road jersey photo Finland 1995 R B.jpg

Today's second featured jersey is a 1996 Finland National Team Jere Lehtinen jersey. One year after Finland won the World Championship in a Reebok branded Tackla produced jersey, Nike became the official supplier to the IIHF for the World Championships and the Olympic Games. Following their debut at the 1996 World Championships in the spring, Nike also outfitted all of the teams at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in the fall of 1996.

Their "waving flag" style of jerseys took Tackla's sublimation techniques to further extremes, as they introduced gradients to the international scene. These jerseys were also worn for the 1997 World Championships until being replaced by new styles for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Finland 1996 WCOH jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's third featured jersey is a 1995 Finland National Team Ville Peltonen jersey. This is the home white version of the blue road jersey shown above as worn during the 1995 World Championships, differentiated from the 1994 Olympics by the Warsteiner beer sponsorship patches on the upper arms.

Finland 1995 home jersey photo Finland 1995 H F.jpg
Finland 1995 home jersey photo Finland 1995 H B.jpg

Here are the highlights from the 1995 World Championship gold medal final between victorious Finland and Sweden.

Here are scenes of the massive celebration on their return home to Finland, as they continue to adopt "Den Glider In" as their own. Don't miss the guy playing air guitar with the then World Championship trophy!

These scenes are proof that while the NHL might not take the World Championships nearly as seriously as they do the Olympics, it clearly still matters to Europeans.

Finally, here are Huey, Dewey and Louie from the 1939 cartoon "The Hockey Champ".

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