Frenchman finds his Finnish roots
by Derek O'Brien|19 APR 2022
French forward Emil Tavernier is followed by Kazakhstan’s Assanali Ruslanuly.
photo: Andrej Galica
On Easter Sunday, France wrapped up the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group A with a 4-0 win over Japan to clinch third place – a bronze medal.

“That’s what we wanted at the beginning of the week and we have it, so it’s a pretty good feeling,” said  Emil Tavernier, who led the team over the course of the week with five goals and six points. 

“We started the week pretty good with two big wins,” said Tavernier, referring to a 4-3 decision over Denmark and a 4-2 defeat of Kazakhstan. “Then it was a bit harder against Slovakia and Norway, but then we were able to play well today and it was good to finish with a win.”

The 6-1 loss to Norway was unfortunate. As both teams entered the game with six points, the winner was almost assured second place and promotion to the top division.  

“That’s for sure, but against Slovakia it was a pretty good battle,” said Tavernier. “It’s a hard team and we put everything we had into this game with the rink full. Then we didn’t have any more power to play the next day against a big team like Norway.”

Tavernier was a monster against Slovakia, scoring all three of his team’s goals in the second period before a full house of 2,738 at the Piestany Ice Rink. The score was 4-3 with six minutes to play before Slovakia added a couple of late goals to win 6-3.

“It was amazing,” Tavernier recalled. “It might have been my best game ever. I’ll remember it forever.”

Tavernier has just finished his first season playing in Finland, but it’s not such a foreign land to the dual citizen with a French father – former pro hockey player Michel Tavernier – and a Finnish mother.  Emil’s older brother, Sami, played youth hockey in Finland from the age of 13 and has represented Finland at various events. Sami also spent a few years in the United States playing junior and college hockey, but is now back in Finland playing in the top-tier Liiga for KalPa Kuopio. 

KalPa is also the club for which Emil plays in the U18 SM-sarja, where he had 44 points in 44 regular-season and playoff games this season. 

“I wanted to try something new,” he said of his move to Finland. “Because my brother was there, it was easier for me to start my first year in Finland. We live together, which is pretty cool. And when we’re both at home, we watch each other’s games. When he’s on the road or I’m on the road, we watch on the computer. The only games we miss is when we’re both playing at the same time.” 

As for fitting in when his brother isn’t around, “My mother is from Finland so I speak the language, and that’s made it easier for me to join the team and fit into the group and at school,” he said. 

But despite playing in Finland and his family ties there, “I’m with the French national team and I’m proud of it.”

This tournament marks the end of Tavernier’s U18 career, but he plans to return to KalPa and move up a level.

“It will be another big challenge and I have to prepare this summer to play next year – the U20 league in Finland is very good,” he said. “And I hope with the French national junior team too.” 
2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group A