Last weekend we headed to the Jäähalli (“ice hall”; in Töölö) to watch a game of ice hockey. The match was part of the domestic league (the SM-liiga), a clash between two of the Helsinki metropol’s teams – HIFK (Helsinki) and the Blues (Espoo).

HIFK vs. Blues at the Helsinki Jäähalli

HIFK vs. Blues at the Helsinki Jäähalli

 

It was our first time watching ice hockey, and despite reading up on the basic rules beforehand, it was still a bit confusing at the start. Nonetheless is was enjoyable from the start, and by the second period we were really into the game (you can watch some highlights from the game here on YouTube). The first thing that struck me was how loud the game was (and the supporters too) – we could hear every time the puck was hit or a player collided with the sides of the rink. We were unsure what to make of the cardboard advertisements placed on each seat – but we saw that they were meant to be folded into a fan-shape which could then be used as a noise-maker. And then don’t forget the enthusiastic singing and chanting by the home fans either!

Preparing for the first face-off of the game - the golden helmet being worn by the HIFK player indicates that hes the teams top scorer.

Preparing for the first face-off of the game – the golden helmet being worn by the HIFK player indicates that hes the teams top scorer.

 

The second surprise was about the teams – individual players only spent two or three minute “shifts” on the ice before substituting out, with an exchange of players happening almost continually. It must be quite a hectic atmosphere on the players’ bench, with coaches shuffling players around. The final surprise was the “ice-cleaners” (for lack of a better title). During longer pauses in the game four girls would skate onto the ice with large shovels to clear away loose ice around the goals – it sounds like it could be an important job, and I can even understand why they are dressed like cheerleaders… but why do they carry roses onto the ice rink?

Inside the Jäähalli ("ice hall")

Inside the Jäähalli (“ice hall”)

 

If you’re heading to your first ice hockey game, then a few tips you may be interested in… First, read up about the rules, since they are not particularly intuitive (at least to me!). Second, if you want to see the players warming up (which is aparently the best opportunity to see then demonstrate their skills), you’ll need to arrive fairly early, since the ice will still need to be prepared before the start of the game. At the Jäähalli this meant that warm-ups finished 20 minutes prior to the start of the match. Thirdly, you need to dress fairly warmly in the arena (it is an ice rink after all!), but no need for a thick coat or anything like that. And finally, if you are returning to your seat during the game, you’ll need to wait for a break in play before doing so – at the Jäähalli there was a steward at each arena entrance to (gently) enforce this. Someone told me this is a new “etiquette” that has recently been adopted – so worth knowing about.

 

Many thanks to Brigitte’s company, Activeark, for the tickets!

 

And for a laugh… check out these adverts for Lahti’s hockey team, the Pelicans, below.