KOLARI, Finland – It’s not always easy to be a hockey player. Never mind the injuries and the scoring slumps, sometimes it’s just not easy to be a player because it’s hard to find a team.
Like in Kolari, Finland. Kolari is situated a hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, far from the limelights. And with a population of about 3,800, there are only so many hockey players born each year.
Hockey has been hibernating in Kolari, where, until last year, there wasn’t an inside rink. The local club, KoTU Hockey, didn't have any junior teams in the Finnish federation’s series systems.
But the ones that have found hockey, love it. And with the new rink, the game is on the upswing again. On Sunday, 28 girls came to the new rink to play and to practice.
“We don’t have a girls’ team here, yet,” says Tero Räisänen at KoTU.
“Almost all of the girls that came today, have taken in part in our hockey school. Last year we had 90 kids in the hockey school, this year about 80, in a few different groups. The new arena kickstarted hockey here, and now there’s a lot of enthusiasm around the game again,” he adds.
With no girls’ team in the town yet, the club has started a girls’ hockey hour where everybody is welcome.
“We won’t be playing in a league so it will be in very loose terms, but we will have a coach or a leader on the ice. The girls will play scrimmages,” says Räisänen, and adds that about twenty girls have played there.
On Sunday, during KoTU Hockey’s Girls’ Hockey Day, it was all about hockey in Kolari. One of the reporters at the local paper was also an instructor on the ice, reporting very close to the action.
The event was an open house, and the girls could come and go as they pleased between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, but Räisänen says that everybody came as soon as the doors were opened.
“For some, it was their first time on the ice, at least this season. We welcomed everybody at the door, where they also registered and got some more information about the event and us,” says Räisänen.
To put the event together, the whole town came together. The municipality and the club worked together, and the local sports store owner – also active in the club’s hockey school – was at the rink to show the new players the latest in hockey equipment.
On Sunday, the sun set in Kolari, Finland at 6pm. In two weeks, at the end of the month, the sun will set at 4pm. According to Räisänen, that’s when there might also be a little snow on the ground – and ice in the outdoor rinks.
“But, you never know, the winters seem to get warmer,” he says.
Click here for the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend tracker.