Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Itsenäisyyspäivä - Finnish Independence Day

Itsenäisyyspäivä , or Finnish Independence Day, is celebrated with the customary public flag displays and decorations in the blue and white of the Finnish flag and most businesses remain closed for the day as people attend parades, concerts, festivals and street parties. There is also an annual military parade each year.

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The festivities begin with the traditional raising of the flag in Tähtitominmäki (Observatory Hill) in Helsinki, followed by a service at the Cathedral of Helsinki, where the President of Finland is present prior to hosting a televised banquet known as Linnan juhlat (The Party at the Castle) in the evening for around 2000 invited guests with war veterans in attendance as the guests of honor.

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Some people still keep with the Finnish Independence Day tradition of putting two candles in the window at night, a sign in earlier days that invited friendly troops into that home for food and shelter and symbolize the light of freedom or one candle for home and the other for homeland.

 photo Finland two candles.jpg

The Finland National Team first appeared at the World Championships back in 1939. Their next appearance was not until 1949 when they became regulars at the World Championships. A perennial mid-pack team, it took them until 1992, a span of over 40 years, to earn their first medal of any kind. Once the floodgates opened, they captured silver in 1992 and 1994 before reaching the pinnacle with World Championship gold in 1995.

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Finland celebrates their first World Championship after arriving back home

Two fifth places in 1996 and 1997 followed before a run of four medals in row with silver in 1998 and 1999, bronze in 2000 and silver once more in 2001. A bit of a slide saw then finish 4th, 5th, 6th then 7th from 2002 through 2005 before returning to the medal podium with bronze in 2006, silver in 2007 and bronze again in 2008. Finland won their second gold medal in 2011, captained by Mikko Koivu. Two more silver medals have since followed in 2014 and earlier this year in 2016.

Koivu Finland Trophy photo KoivuTrophy.jpg
Finland's captain Mikko Koivu is thrilled to hoist
the World Championship trophy

Finland's hockey team first appeared at the Winter Olympics in 1952, and aside from 1956, has appeared in each Olympic hockey tournament since, becoming a regular medal contender in the mid 1970's, with a fourth places in 1978 and 1980. They won their first medal in 1988 with a silver and took bronze in both 1994 and 1998. In 2006 they again won silver followed by bronze medals in both 2010 and 2014 to give them medals in three consecutive Olympics for the first time.

 photo Lentinen Koivu and Peltonen 2010.png
Jere Lehtinen, Saku Koivu and Ville Peltonen enjoying their final success as
a trio at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver where they won bronze medals

Finland has also participated in the Canada Cup and it's successor, the World Cup of Hockey, taking home the silver medal in the 2004 World Cup in the seven times it has competed.

The Finland National Team has now retired the numbers of #14 Raimo Helminen, #17 Jarri Kurri, #8 Teemu Selanne, #11 Saku Koivu, 26 Jere Lehtinen and #16 Ville Peltonen.

Today's first featured jersey is a 1991 Finland National Team Jari Kurri jersey as worn in the 1991 World Cup. This jersey was produced by Tackla out of Finland and features a short-lived cartoonish lion's head logo which was quickly replaced by a new shield-style logo which remains in use today.

Finland 1991 Kurri jersey
Finland 1991 Kurri jersey

Today's second featured jersey is a 1996 Finland National Team Raimo Helminen jersey from the inaugural World Cup of Hockey. Note that this is a #14 jersey, not the #41 Finland retired for Helminen. This attractive "waving flag" style of jersey marked Nike's entry into being the jersey supplier for the IIHF, which continues to this day. This style was worn through the 1997 World Championships until new styles were debuted for the 1998 Olympics.

Finland 1996 jersey photo Finland1996Fjerseycopy.jpg
Finland 1996 jersey photo Finland1996Bjerseycopy.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's third featured jersey is a 2004 Finland National Team Teemu Selanne jersey. Finland first wore this style for the 1998 Oympics in Nagano, Japan with the crest reading "Suomi". For the 2002 Olympics, the crest was altered to read "Finland" with Suomi now printed boldly across the waist. This would be the final appearance for this jersey, as Nike would introduce a new style for the 2005 World Championships.

Finland 2004 WCOH jersey photo Finland 2004 WCOH F.jpg
 Finland 2004 WCOH jersey photo Finland 2004 WCOH B.jpg

Today's fourth 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 fifth 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 sixth 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

Everyone loves a parade, and Finland is no exception, only their Independence Day happens during a slightly colder time of year than we are used to in North America. Check out the group at 6:09 of part 1. We can't tell if they are enjoying the parade, or just waiting to finally cross the street. We won't blame you if you skip ahead to part 2, which contains some cool military hardware.

Check this out, from Heinola, Finland - the World Sauna Championships!

Sauna Championships not exciting enough for you? Perhaps the World Wife Carrying Championships are more your style, where the winner receives his wife's weight in beer.

Next is Finland's finest moment in hockey, winning their first World Championships in 1995 against their rivals Sweden and in Sweden.

Here are highlights of Finland winning the 2011 World Championship.

Finally, a Finnish Nike commercial featuring Mikko Koivu, Ruutu, Selanne, Filppula and Peltonen.

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