When the Russian team shocked Canada to win the 2011 World Juniors Championship, I thought their celebration marked a new high in awesome foreign elation. While they technically remain on top since today’s story involves fan celebrations rather than drunken revelry by a team, it’s still going to be tough to top how Finnish people reacted to their team’s 6-1 gold medal win against Sweden in the 2011 World Championships.
Puck Daddy provides links to the photos, first-hand accounts and galleries if you must, but the basic gist is that normally even-keeled Finns let loose by taking off their clothes.
While the tournament isn’t given much attention in the United States, it’s a big draw overseas. If you need any more proof of that, check out this figure from a translated article via Helsingin Sanomat: about 1 out of every 2 Finnish people watched that gold medal game. The local TV telecast reportedly drew about 2.43 million viewers in Finland.
That celebration shows just how long Finland has been waiting for a gold medal in the sport (they last won one in the 1995 World Championships, also against Sweden) and how much they enjoy beating their bitter rivals from Sweden.
That Helsingin Sanomat article captured the, um, free spirited scene in Finland and what could be ahead as the team returns to the country today.
By 1 a.m. on Monday morning, both the Esplanades in downtown Helsinki were packed with jubilant hockey fans, such that the earlier rally of cars hooting their horns and with flags waving from the windows was no longer possible.
The nude statue of Havis Amanda in the Market Square was decorously draped with a Finnish team jersey, and a crowd estimated in the tens of thousands had congregated around the statue in high spirits, some of them stripping down to their underwear and jumping into the chilly water of the fountains.
The national anthem was sung lustily and off-key, people hugged complete strangers, and the crowds turning out to mark only the second-ever win in this competition – after a wait of sixteen years – were a mix of young and old alike. Many had come from bars in the centre of the city, where the match had been watched, first nervously as Sweden edged in front in the second period and then with growing delight and awed disbelief as the Finns drew level and then skated over the horizon.
The crowds in Helsinki are likely to be even bigger this evening, when the team – and the World Championship trophy – are presented to the public at a more organised celebration in the Market Square from 19:00 until 22:00, just as occurred on the previous occasion when Finland won the title in 1995, and after Lordi’s Eurovision Song Contest triumph in 2007.
The homecoming event, arranged by the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, will also feature other artists performing, and probably a lot of singing and waving of blue and white flags, as the Finns wash away sixteen years of hurt since the last occasion when they topped the rankings in this sport that is immensely popular hereabouts.
Next time your favorite team – or even better, home country – wins a championship or gold medal, you might want to try to top those Finns. My advice is to let that urge go, unless you want to risk a public indecency wrap.