by Andrew Podnieks|16 MAY 2022
WIth his change to number 80 Latvian goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins remembers his former teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who passed away last summer after performing at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Riga.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
  • Cory Murphy is in Helsinki as an assistant coach to Toni Soderholm in Germany. Does Murphy's name sound familiar? He was perhaps THE story of the 2007 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Russia. The Ontario native was never drafted and moved to Finland to play. When Canada was naming its team for Moscow in ’07, it asked Murphy, who had had a career year with HIFK Helsinki on the blue line, to join. Few had heard of him, but he quickly took on more and more responsibility and was one of the team’s best players en route to a gold medal. His play got him into his first NHL games the following year at age 29, first with Florida, and later with Tampa Bay and New Jersey. He finished his career in Sweden. An incredible story.
  • The Helsinki Ice Hall is situated next to the Olympic Stadium from 1952 where the Opening Ceremonies were held as well as the track events. Middle-distance runner Paavo Nurmi lit the cauldron. He was nicknamed the “Finnish Flash,” and if that sounds familiar those in the hockey world used that same moniker years later for Mikko Makela and Teemu Selanne.
  • Andres Ambuhl is playing in his record-setting 17th World Championship and will soon break the record for most games played. The current record in 119 by Udo Kiessling (Germany), but Ambuhl can break that against Canada next week.
  • There are 25 players at this year’s tournament born in the 2000s, and only two in 2004. Slovakia’s teen sensation Juraj Slafkovsky was born 30 March 2004, but he’s not the youngest. That distinction goes to Austrian Marco Kasper, born a week later on 8 April.
  • The oldest is player is Great Britain’s Jonathan Phillips, who will be 40 on Bastille Day.
  • The Finns must be considered prohibitive favourites at this point. Some 17 of their 23 players won Olympic gold in February, and those on the team now that weren’t there have loads of success: Jere Sallinen was on the team that went to the gold-medal games at the 2019 and 2021 World Championships; Juha Lamikko was on the gold team in ’19; Mikael Seppala and Jere Innala were on the silver team two years later; and, Mikael Granlund had had success with the team at every level over the last decade and more. The only outlier is Joel Armia, who last played for Suomi at the 2013 World Juniors, but he has forged a very respectable career in the NHL, most recently with Montreal.
  • Liam Kirk, perhaps the best player ever produced by Great Britain in newer history, led the 2021 Worlds in goal scoring with seven, but he’s not able to join the team this year because of injury. He’s in the U.S. where he had to send out the following tweet: “Anyone in the US know how to get the GB world championships games?” His petition worked, and he is now happily cheering on his mates from the other side of the pond.
  • The Swedes have two players and the Finns even six players on their roster with no club affiliation. The reason is simple. Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, they dissolved their contracts with their KHL teams and returned home.
  • Elvis Merzlikins is a lifelong wearer of sweater number 30, but he has switched to 80 in honour of the late Matiss Kivlenieks, who died suddenly last year after playing at the World Championship on home ice in Riga in an accident at the age of 24 at the home of retired goalie Manny Legace in Michigan. Kivlenieks had just eight NHL games to his credit, but his future looked bright.
  • The Americans have two young members on their team who were on the list of top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award this past season: Luke Hughes and Ben Meyers. Neither won. That distinction went to Dryden McKay. Luke Hughes is the youngest of three Hughes boys. Brothers Quinn and Jack are already in the NHL.
  • It’s unfathomable to think, but the last time the Czechs won a medal at the World Championship was a decade ago, when they brought home bronze in 2012 right here in Helsinki. They beat the hosts, 3-2, in the game for third place. No player from that win is here in Finland.
  • Canadians are known to play in and for other countries, from Britain to Italy to China, but one of the oddest changes of country must surely be 6’8” defender Viktor Svedberg. Born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, he plays for Kazakhstan where he moved to in 2018.
  • Italy coach Greg Ireland and Great Britain skater Dallas Ehrhardt are members of the all-place name team which also includes such luminaries as Aaron Rome, Paris Duffus, France St-Louis, Martin St-Louis, Marty York, Bobby Hull, and Tyson Barrie.