Always bet on a bloke from Suomi

Updated: December 18, 2017

Hockey is in all honesty a sport not most of our people in this world follow. Well, there is that sort played on grass, always in summer Olympics which Netherlands, India or Pakistan always manage to win. But we are talking the other kind here, the tougher, the skating on ice. The one when odds are usually in favour of Canada, Russia, perhaps Sweden or USA. The one where betting advice leans towards a handful somewhat lazily always mentioned.

And yet, I, my biggest hockey hero is someone who few mentioned when you ask people in the know, who the best player truly ever was.

For starters, I am not even a Finn. I have no connection with Finland at all, which makes the surprise on Finnish people’s faces even more astounding. Every single time I meet a person from Finland and we start talking hockey, and I ask them “who is the greatest Finnish hockey player of all time?” they give me the same three-four names; Jari Kurri, Teemu Selänne, Saku Koivu.

The last one mentioned, I must say he was sort of a favourite for me due to two reasons. Number one, he played for Montreal Canadiens, which is my team over there, but he also suffered cancer then beat it came back and managed almost even better, an admirable feat.

But if you want to bring a smile on the face someone hailing from Finland, this is what you tell them: The best hockey player that country ever produced, his name was Esa Tikkanen. Most Finns, they will simply become silent, nod and acknowledge the ultimate correctness in that statement.

Esa Tikkanen was a defender, in the era when only one assist was counted, not two as it is today. Esa Tikkanen played behind Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky and he took all the crap for them to prosper. He took the beatings, protected these fantastic forwards, Yet when you check the statistics, he assisted to a phenomenal amount of goals that Edmonton Oilers side produced.

Esa Tikkanen was a bully, he was in all consequence that one which every side had on their side, an antagonist, but he was so brilliant at it where he managed to produce not only them falling off their skates, he managed to pass the puck for the forwards as well.

Sometimes you need to step back a bit and read the history books properly. Whenever you meet a person from Finland, ask them if Esa is not the greatest, and I bet you they will smile, especially if you mention Tikki Talk. That was the lingo, that strange English when Esa would mouth an opponent during face off. Simply stand there beside the ref and tell this bloke from the other team “you can’t beat me”.

Intimidator, was Tikkanen’s nick name.