Thursday, March 16, 2017

St. Urho's Day

While many anticipate tomorrow's celebration of Irish and Irish-American culture, St. Patrick's Day, who is said to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland, many are unaware that today is a similar celebration of Finnish culture, St. Urho's Day.

St Urho logo

In reality, St. Urho is a fictional saint of Finland, whose legend was the invention of Finnish-American Richard Mattson of Virginia, Minnesota in 1956. Mattson invented St. Urho when questioned by coworker Gene McCavic about the Finns lack of a saint similar to St. Patrick for the Irish.

Mattson and McCavic wrote an "Ode to St. Urho", in which he was to have supposedly cast the frogs out of Finland, similar to St. Patrick and the snakes of Ireland. The original St. Urho's Day was set to May 24th, but later changed to today, March 16th, the day before St. Patrick's Day, with credit to high school teacher Kenneth Brist and friends in an effort to have two days to celebrate, what with St. Patrick's Day being the very next day.

Not only did the date of St. Urho's Day change, but so did the legend under the influence of Dr. Sulo Havumaki, a professor at Bemidji State College in Bemidji, Minnesota, as the legend of St. Urho now credits the fictional saint with driving all the grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the Finnish grape crop, and therefore the country's supply of wine by chanting "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen", which translates to "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to hell!"

St. Urho's Grapes and Grasshopers
St. Urho is said to have saved the Finnish grape crop
by driving the Grasshoppers out of Finland

In addition to celebrating Finnish heritage and culture, as well as being an excuse to drink somewhat heavily, like the wearing of the green by the Irish, St. Urho's celebrants traditionally wear Royal Purple and Nile Green.

There has even been a book published on St. Urho, The Legend of St. Urho, which chronicles the origins and folklore of the man, the myth and the legend of St. Urho.

St Urho Menahga, MN
The statue of St. Urho in Menahga, Minnesota

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.

Finland 1995 Celebration
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 in 2016.

2011 IIHF World Championship
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.

Lehtinen, Koivu and Peltonen 2010
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 actually the logo of a Finnish sponsoring bank, that was quickly replaced by a new shield-style logo which remains in use today.

Finland 1991 Kurri F
Finland 1991 Kurri B

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 F jersey copy
Finland 1996 B jersey copy
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.

2004 World Cup Team Finland  jersey
2004 World Cup Team Finland jersey

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 R F
Finland 1995 R B

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 H F
Finland 1995 H B

In today's video section, Finland's finest moment in hockey, winning their first World Championship 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.

1 comment:

  1. Learn something new and exciting every day! But wish they had not shifted the date from May 24 (my birthday) to March 16 although I am glad for any excuse to drink wine!


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