Defender Sami Helenius recalled the painful loss to Sweden that the Lions experienced in 2003 home games.
The story is first published in Urheilulehti’s Elamani Pelit column on 21 December 2022. Former top players in the panel recall memorable matches of their career.
Finland-Soviet Union 3-5
7.2.1991 Under-17 National Team Tournament in Savonlinna. My first national team event. Even though I come from Jokela, where there is not much ice hockey culture, I already told my foster aunt that I would grow up to be an ice hockey player when I was 4 years old. The Soviet Union had tough players. Sergey Gonscher, Sergey Brylin, Valery Bure. At first I was nervous, but then I realized that I can do well here. In the second game against Sweden, I scored a goal.
14/12/1996 My first NHL game. I was in the field taking a nap when the phone rang and my wife answered at that time. When he woke me up, I was a little angry, but he said that my teacher was calling. I realized, well, now this is a business or something. This was Paul Baxter, later also at HIFK. The old league guy who said he had three hours to be at the airport and fly to Calgary: that I’m playing tomorrow. The game was against Colorado, the previous year’s champions – and we won it! This was not nuclear physics.
7/5/2003 Cold shivers ran down my spine during the warm-up. The Hartwall Arena was packed and the Finland–Sweden. I was stuck and in the middle of nowhere. We were up 5-1 but it was only 5-4 on the second break. Everyone felt that now Sweden has smelled blood and they will come. “Ara” (Hannu Arvirata) said that we will continue like this. We thought what the hell. One of the coaches should have come over and yelled, wake up you a**t. Friends should have been fired. It was quiet after the game.
On January 7, 2017, Aleksandr Lukashenka’s Veteran Tournament was played in Minsk, where he played himself. Whenever he had the puck, the game would stop. Our team was made up of former players and Penti Matikainen was the coach. We reached the final against Belarus and then the rules changed. Belarus took active players, Daniel Corso and other Yunost Minsk players came. He had a lot of bonus for power points. There was a fight! “Makkari” (Tony Makiaho) fought against Corso – in a veteran’s match.
Sami Helenius, 49, played 155 NHL games between 1996 and 2003 as a guard. Expired 2010. A male WC.