In my late article with the title Hockey fever 2019 in Slovakia, I shared basic info on what’s going on in Slovakia right now – hockey-wise. But none of the hype could measure the actual experience from IIHF hockey. I had the pleasure to witness 2 of my favorite grand hockey nations play live.
FINLAND vs. France
CANADA vs. Denmark
I tried to explain my best what a huge deal IIHF hockey championships are in my homeland. Being the hosting country multiply the general excitement immensely.
I could notice the atmosphere on my train home from Prague already. Why would someone travel 10 hours in a hockey dress is beyond me but it was still cute. A hundred tourists visiting Slovakia warms my heart. I could hear people cheering their country from the incoming train while I was waiting on my transfer ride. The global euphory was contagious and the greatest representation of the Slovak hype could be seen on our own matches. You can still search for full games of Slovakia on IIHF youtube and check out the spectacular fans go crazy.
I did not have the luck to attend my countries game but I choose a few of my favorites to visit.
I’m a huge fan of Finland’s game. For several years now they perfected their junior league and the youngsters that come up from Finland to NHL are really something special. The live version did not disappoint me.
The game was on Saturday. I took a train with my sister to get there so overall during my 5 days off work I traveled 6-12 hours by train or car daily. Sounds nuts I know but to be fair I’m so used to traveling by now I don’t even notice it.
I and my family met up in Kosice, had dinner, struggled to find a place to park our car, and walked to the Steel Arena stadium.
As it was the last game of the day, fans from the previous game were still leaving the stadium. We arrived an hour earlier so our check-in was surprisingly quick. Obviously, we got over body checked as you can’t bring any food or drinks inside, just like any other hockey game. For this game, I got us tickets on the second floor right at the top. Let me tell you the climb there was a challenge.
Seriously I got dizzy on my way up but the view made it all better.
We somehow ended up in Finland’s fan zone sector. But to be fair the whole stadium looked like a Finland fan zone. Very few France fans came to this match. I would say the visitors consisted mostly of finish fans and Slovak ones.
There were these two really old men, like 70 at least, presumably from Britain, who sat beside us. I admired their strength to climb up that many stairs, although when one of them stopped in the middle of stairs, grasped for the handle, and sat down for a while I was reciting first aid in my head already.
Slovakia put extra work into special effects before the game and from up high, it looked incredible.
The projections of flags, countries, or current opponents were a really nice touch and got everyone even more excited.
The classic cliche kiss cam is a must but it went on just like 3 times during commercial break. But it was still so cringy. This game visitors capacity was like 4K while the max is around 7K. The atmosphere was still great.
I was not able to get 4 tickets in a row so I and my younger sister sat one row above my parents.
My sister is not a hockey fan. She understands very little of what’s going on and she questioned me about literally everything. By the end of the game, I got a headache from trying to scream over the loud music and explain the basic rules to her.
The game resulted as expected. Fin won. It’s a shame I did not see Kaapo Kakko do his goal magic but it was still chilling to see this rising star play an amazing game.
The other game was Canada obvs.
I saw those guys play a thousand times, both on IIHF or NHL. To see them all came out on the ice as stand just a few meters in front of me was whole other fangirl level for me.
For this game, it was just me and my dad. I wanted to get my dad the tickets for his birthday, as he is the one who introduced me to hockey in the first place. We got tickets in just the second row from the ice and I was startled by the proximity and the coldness.
Me and my dad drove to Kosice again like an hour ahead. The game that was played before ours was legendary Britain vs France where Britain eliminated France after a 3:0 lead. Kosice belonged to Britain and their celebrations. I was so delighted by their happiness and surprise.
As we arrived this early I managed to take this photo of an almost empty Kosice stadium and me.
The place started slowly filling up when a guy walked in front of ice and sat on the IIHF photographers’ reserved chair.
My heart started beating so fast when I recognized the guy.
Dylan Strome just casually walked on the stadium in his shorts and shirt with a hockey stick. He just sat there adjusting his stick and looking around. I was startled. Sure the stadium was almost empty, there were only like 30 people around me and no one recognized him until I said to my dad: “That’s Dylan Strome.” The whisper spread and everyone took out their phones to capture the close look of Strome. After a couple of minutes, he stood up and walked away to dress up.
I was truly shocked when I saw him fully prepared on ice in like 5 minutes for warm-ups. To be fair I thought it took longer than just a couple of minutes for a hockey player to put on full hockey gear.
The cute moment occurred at warm-ups when Turris was showing up his mad skill with the puck, turned to our sector and pointed to the little Canadian kid in front of me, and tossed him the puck. I was awwwwin for a good couple of seconds.
Canada obviously won the game and for me, it was an unforgettable experience.
The speed, the talent of Canada is incomparable. Very few fights took place but the bodychecks co close to me were awesome. I was so pleased.
There is one thing I must complain about.
As you can see in this photo above there are clearly plenty of seats empty. Sure the game wasn’t sold out. There were again like 4K of fans. What’s so upsetting is that the same happened in the Finland game as well.
AND you could not buy those tickets either.
Basically what happened is those big corporations bought up tickets in bulks and organized competitions to increase their sales through IIHF and gift the free tickets to some lucky guys. Well, guess how many lucky winners there were.
This includes not only Slovakian brands, but I’m also sure many countries bought their share and that’s just ridiculous. You have whole sectors empty and there are people who couldn’t get any tickets left. I didn’t get to sit with my family in one row but the whole sector in front of my seat was empty.
I understand the marketing purposes as well but all in moderation for crying out loud.
This should be more regulated. Normal people can’t buy more than 4 tickets at once, and you couldn’t leave an empty set in between you and someone else cuz the page would not let you proceed to check out. But the organization let the corporations buy in bulk and now they look incompetent as the game is half empty.
I was still enjoying myself greatly and I’m sure if I ever have the chance to go I would, without any hesitation.
The finale of IIHF is still upon us.
There are these 4 top teams I love dearly and I seriously can’t decide who I want to win the most.
In my previous article, I mentioned I want Russia to win because of an incredible dream team they brought to Slovakia.
Form this article is obvious I love both Finland and Canada.
To top it off I live in the Czech Republic so I want Czechs to win so much.