Helsinki Rinki by Katie Rinki
No Talking in Hockey.
I’m an American living in Finland for the past two years. Maybe you’ve heard some of the Finnish stereotypes–for example, that rowdy drinking and the occasional bar fight are a big part of the social culture. Everyone loves sauna. And Finns don’t talk much. I can tell you that they are all true/not true.
So I recently went to a hockey game with a woman from work who had an extra ticket, Jokers against some other people. I can’t say I follow sports, but I like a live event as much as the next person, and I am particularly fond of the sound it makes when one guy smashes the face of another guy into the plexiglass.
I understand that going to games is a social thing. You eat some dogs, you cheer, you talk shit. But about 10 minutes in, I realize I’m sitting with A Woman. Sure, I’m a woman. But she had turned into some other kind of stereotype I was not at all prepared for. She had the odd, genetically recessive gift of yap, and all I could think of was, “So are you going to shut up and watch the game, or are we going to have a problem?”
I appreciated her explaining the rules to me, a foreigner, but I was pretty sure she was making them up. She kept changing them, “No, no, no, I’m wrong about that, they can hit it from there if that other guy is behind him. But not from that line.” What? It’s hockey. You hit the puck into the thing. I get it.
After she had exhausted all possible combinations of rules, she went on to explain the delicate make-up of sports psychology. She seemed to have a keen understanding as to why players moved the way they did, their formations, why they push and spit. Everything they did was attributed to lack of confidence. Or an abundance of confidence. Or sometimes, just a big psych-out. I told her I was pretty sure they really just wanted to move fast and score.
She then compared this game to the last one she went to. Maybe it was The Blues. Maybe it was JYP. She couldn’t remember who won, or any spectacular plays. But it was better than this game. And it was 16 YEARS AGO. Which is what I guess made her the resident expert.
When the game ended I cheered, mostly for its being over. I had found it equally as exhausting to ignore the gab completely, as it was to politely nod and say “yeah” from time to time. What happened to sullen and quiet? What happened to the Finnish economy of words? It was yet another stereotype in this great land that had its consistent inconsistencies. Much like its grammar.
As we filed out, my friend asked, did I want to go someplace for some dinner? No. I only wanted to grab a quick slice of SHUT IT, and get the hell home to the sanctity of my tiny overpriced northern European alcove apartment, where I would have a cold beer and a hot sauna waiting for me.
Because, crap. I’d take a bar fight to that any day.