The style that Finland plays is well-known for its disciplinary and cohesion. The group is a tight bunch of people, who are like-minded and always push to the same direction. Finland will be playing in the same group with Sweden, Slovakia and Latvia. The Finns will start their games against the Slovakian team on Thursday the 10th.
As well as in the World Championships, also in the Olympic games Finland has been successful in the recent years. Last time in South Korea in 2018 the team was left without a medal, but in Sochi 2014 Finland declared the bronze medals.
The medal flow flow started back in Turin 2006, when Finland was very close of winning the gold medals, but Sweden just outplayed them in the final. In Vancouver Finland managed to reach the third spot.
Finland’s Olympic success goes back as far as Calgary 1988, when they took their first spot on the podium — wearing bronze after the tournament. In the 90’s Finland kept taking medals out of the Olympic ice hockey tournaments as in both Lillehammer and Nagano the team received some glory.
After year 2000 Finland has been left out of the podium only in Salt Lake City 2002 and Pyeongchang in 2018.
Jukka Jalonen has won a lot during his long coaching career. He started as coach for the Finnish team Ilves Tampere in the middle of the 90’s after retiring from his relatively short player career. People remember coach Jalonen the first time from HPK in the early 2000’s, when he lead the team to the Finnish championship in 2006 for the first time for the club from the city of Hämeenlinna.
Since then Jalonen has lead the national team to two World Championships and several other medals. In last year’s tournament he coached Finland to the final, but lost to Canada in the overtime.
Jalonen has also coached in the KHL as he held the position of the head coach in SKA St. Petersburg in years 2012–14. His experience in the Olympics comes mostly from the Vancouver and Pyeonchang games. He is known for his straight-forward style of communication. He is concidered a great listened and he understands the individual in the team and is able to make them play fluently together.
When it comes to the players, Finland has plenty of leadership within the roster. Many players have experience from the North America and NHL. Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov should be concidered as world class leaders at any hockey environmant. Also defenceman Juuso Hietanen has been around a lot, so he knows everybody and everybody knows him.
As mentioned, Finland’s roster is full of experinced players. Coach Jalonen’s trusted captain Marko Anttila is in covid quarantine in Beijing and it’s yet unclear if the Jokerit forward is able to compete in the Olympic tournament.
Finland’s biggest strenght concidering leadership is that each player and coaching staff member is a common person to each other, so stepping up if needed isn’t a barrier for anybody. All the guys carry a leaing role in their clubs.
Finland has an experienced roster in the Beijing Olympics. Hannes Björninen, who was born in 1995, is the youngest member of the team. That means that there are no newcomers or unexperienced individuals, but everybody knows what big games and important tournaments are and what they mean to Finland’s national team.
In the team there are two lines that have been playing together either alot or in tough moments in the national team. The Salavat Yulaev line with Markus Granlund, Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen shall be put together also in the Olympics, which gives an advantage to them as they know many of their opponents from the KHL. Also Björninen, Anttila and Saku Mäenalanen played together in Riga 2021, so they’ll be a great fit as well — only if Anttila will be released from the quarantine.
There is also a strong base of Jokerit players in the team as also defencemen Petteri Lindbohm, Niklas Friman and the forward Iiro Pakarinen are onboard. Goaltender Janne Juvonen was named among the extra players.
As Finland has been successful in many Olympic tournaments even before Beijing, it’s most likely that they are high on the standings this time as well. They have good memories from the previous national tournament, so that should give a boost as well.
Finland faces Sweden in the group stage and that game shall determine most of the positions in the group. Obviously the two other teams have something to say as well, but the neigbouring countries are the two favorites to be on the top of the group.
The fact that the NHL players aren’t participating in Beijing raises the stakes for Finland, because the team still gets a strong roster out of the KHL and other European leagues. The North American teams took the biggest hit, which without a doubt favors Finland.
Given the situation that Finland knows, how to be successful in the Olympics and important tournamens, it gives a good starting point on the path towards glory. It wouldn’t be a big surprice, if team Finland would be on the podium as the Olympic tournament concludes. Even the first Olympic gold medal in the history isn’t out of concideration.