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At least one hockey nation would be happy to see history repeat itself in Stockholm: Finland

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STOCKHOLM – If the Finns got to choose, they’d be happy to have the 2013 World Championship play out exactly the way it did in 1995. The reason Finns would love it is because in May of that year, Finland celebrated the country’s first hockey world championship, after their team had beat Sweden in the final 4-1. It could be just like in the olden days. The framework is already in place. One, the final will be played in the Globe Arena again, just like in 1995, and not in Gothenburg, like in 2002 when Sweden hosted the final the last time, and two, the NHL had to cancel half a season again, just like in 1995. And in 1995, when Finland won, they did it without any NHLers. Well, that’s where things will be different this time around. With a pressed schedule, the NHL regular season ends just days before the opening night of the 2012 World Championship, but in 1995, the tournament kicked off in late April, and the final was played on May 7, just four days after the conclusion of the NHL regular season. Nevertheless, on May 8 Finland went crazy, and over a hundred thousand people welcomed their heroes in downtown Helsinki, the nation’s capital. This year, the World Championship won’t start until May 3, a few days after the last games of the NHL regular season, enough of an opening for NHLers to play in the tournament, whether playing for Sweden, Finland, or Russia – as usual. For players in the 14 teams that won’t make the Stanley Cup playoffs, playing for their country in the World Championships is a real possibility. Also, in the current World Championship format, the quarterfinals will be played on May 16, after the first round of Stanley Cup playoffs, so teams may be looking for adding players in the later stages of the tournament as well. The tournament organizers welcomed the start of the NHL season, even if they have to proceed with the planning, regardless of what happens on the other side of the Atlantic. “We’ve known all along that the NHL season might start later, but the World Championship is phenomenal event [in itself], and it’ll we fantastic experience for everybody,” says Tony Wirhén, general secretary of the tournament organization. “I think it’s great for the popularity of the game, and public interest in hockey, that the NHL did kick off,” he adds. Pär Mårts, head coach of Team Sweden, was also pleased to see the puck drop in the NHL. “At least there’s a chance to pick players from teams that won’t make the playoffs, and since we’ll be playing at home, it’d be great to have some of our NHLers on the team,” he told TT, Sweden’s news agency. Of course, some things have changed. We can’t really go back to 1995. For example, of the players on the ice for the 1995 final, only a handful are still playing. Of the Swedes that played in the final, only Ottawa Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson is still an active player. But maybe there’s a chance we’ll see a few of the 1995 world champions on the ice at the Globen in May, 18 years after their triumph. After all, Saku Koivu, 38, is an alternate captain of the Anaheim Ducks, Ville Peltonen, 39, the captain of IFK Helsinki in the Finnish SM-liiga, and Sami Kapanen, 39, the captain and owner of KalPa Kuopio in the SM-liiga. And Petteri Nummelin, 40, did play for Team Finland in the Karjala tournament in November. He played his first World Championship in Stockholm in 1995. Maybe he’ll go full circle and play his sixteenth in Sweden as well. RISTO PAKARINEN
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