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Finland fetes world champion ice hockey team

Finland fetes world champion ice hockey team

Tens of thousands of exultant flag-waving ice hockey fans thronged the streets of the capital Monday to welcome home Finland's new world champions.
Finland's team, the Lions, beat Sweden 6-1 in the final on Sunday in Bratislava, Slovakia, to claim the Nordic country's second world championship title.
All-night revelers filled city streets nationwide late Sunday after the squad, now dubbed the "Golden Lions," beat their fierce rivals in a repeat of its first world victory in 1995.
The team flew to Finland, escorted by a Finnish Air Force Hornet F-18 jet, and made its way to the central market square where tumultuous roars greeted them as the players stepped off an open-air bus.
Finland President Tarja Halonen, who usually attends Finland's international games but didn't make the final, joined the players on the outdoor stage.
"Looks like when mum stays at home the boys play well," she said to the cheering crowds.
Hockey fans joined Finnish pop and rock artists in nationalist songs as helicopters buzzed overhead in the carnival-like festivities that were broadcast live on nationwide television and radio. Police estimated crowds of up to 100,000 in Helsinki.
Sunday's game was the fourth worlds final between the long-standing rivals. Sweden, which was chasing its ninth world title and first since 2006, beat Finland in 1992 and 1998. Finland also lost the Olympic gold against Sweden in 2006.
"We have waited long enough for this moment. It was time we brought the championship back to Finland," team coach Jukka Jalonen said.
The world championship _ after a break of 16 years _ was the country's top news. A record 2.4 million TV viewers watched the final, almost half the country's 5 million population.
"Finland is ice hockey. That's what it's all about, period," said Kimi Brugger, a 15-year-old schoolboy. "And it won't be another 16 years before we win again."
Even Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who lived in Finland 30 years ago and came for talks in Helsinki on Monday, got caught up in the atmosphere and described the victory as "an extraordinary win."
"I know something from personal experience how much ice hockey is drilled into the Finnish soul," he told reporters. "So, when I arrived here last night I could sense the jubilation from 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) that was occurring down here in the streets of Helsinki."


Updated : 2021-06-14 05:39 GMT+08:00