For our second FIN/JAP meeting, Aoi, Hannele and I had agreed to dive into Finnish sports culture and go watch a hockey game. Although I’ve watched some hockey from TV and internet streams over the course of my life, watching hockey live in the arena itself was probably as new to me as it was to Aoi. I honestly didn’t know what to expect and how much the experience would differ from all those games I’ve watched from the comfort of my home couch.
The local rivals, Tappara and Ilves, happened to have a game on the day that fit our calendars the best. This meant a sold-out arena and loads of people, some of which are very passionate about this rivalry. What makes it all the more interesting is that these two teams share the same arena, the only good rink Tampere has, as their home ice. This time, Tappara was the nominal “Home” team, and the announcer took the most out of that: “Welcome, Ilves, to our home“. As we were standing in the Ilves end of the rink, we got to see how well that joke sunk to some of the more passionate Ilves supporters.
The atmosphere when compared to TV hockey was very different. The puck impact sounds were much heavier (as in much more painful to listen to when someone caught a slapshot right to the shin), and the audience made up most of the soundscape. Tappara’s fan group had a really good battle drum beat going, and the couple fanatic members of each club brought an element of comedy to the experience with their constant shouts and remarks. Between the periods and during commercial breaks, all kinds of weird competitions and events took place. Sadly, I was nowhere near to where the Pancho Villa gift cards were cannoned into.
Every now and then between all the cheering, announcements and commercials, there was enough silence to have quick conversations. I was surprised to hear that in Japan, sumo is actually a really popular sport (the most popular ones being baseball and football) and not just a marginal sport that looks funny to foreigners (in my mind, I had always compared it to what the eukonkanto championships are to us Finns). I explained to Aoi that when it comes to spectatorship numbers, hockey is by far the most popular sport here, but due to its expensive nature, football and floorball have more registered players. Another suprise to me was that Aoi had never heard of or seen floorball, despite having been in Finland for so long. “Hockey without ice and the constant fear of death”, I explained.
On the bus ride back, we all got to experience a very Japanese way of commuting. As it turns out, public transportation after a Tappara-Ilves game is a nightmare. In these rare occasions of utter desperation, you can see Finns getting really close to each other just to fit the maximum amount of people to a TKL bus. After a tight game that turned into a Tappara’s overtime victory, over seven thousand people crawled back into their caves to await the next time these two teams battle over the titular ownership of Hakametsä.