Slovakia – Marko Anttila and the Finnish World Ice Hockey Champions 2019. The recent World Ice Hockey Championships 2019 was a remarkable time in sporting history for myself. Finland sent a team, not considered good enough, to Slovakia for the tournament that was from 10 to 26 May 2019.
Marko Anttila and the Finnish World Ice Hockey Champions 2019
This was a rather special tournament, as a player such as Marko Anttila became Finland’s hero. I live in Finland and in the build-up to this World Championships, I was told that the Finnish team had no chance, as their best players had not been released from the American teams in the NHL.
Being from a coaching background, I made the comment,
“you never know, this team could do very well, as there is no pressure on them”
How true those words were to become, as Finland progressed through the tournament.
In their opening group A matches, Finland beat the highly fancied Canada 3 – 1 and the hosts Slovakia 4 – 2. Then they lost to the USA 3 – 2 in Overtime.
To the people of Finland, this was about right, their team was simply not good enough. But these were the group stage games and if you able to make the knockout, then anything can happen. After losing for the 2nd time in the group stages to Germany; who it must be noted, are a vastly improved team, the Finnish public were accepting that whatever comes next is the end of their Championships.
Having finished 2nd in Group A, they would face Sweden their arch rivals. Yet again, we would hear that they had no chance against their dreaded neighbours who had 21 NHL players in their squad. They were the defending champions, having won the title in 2018 for the 11th time.
When Finland went 3 – 1 down to Sweden, it was considered all over, there was just no way back for this group of players. Incredibly, the team would not lie down and they fought back to win the game 5 – 4 in Overtime. It was a passionate display and the Finnish public were immensely proud that they beat their star studded arch rivals.
Also of note, was that Marko Anttila scored his first goal of this tourney against Sweden, giving them the chance to progress.
Next up was Russia
There was just simply no ways that this truly weak team could beat the favourites for the title, in the semi-finals. Just no way. They had done well against Sweden, but that was a game filled with passion and the skill of the individual Russian players would be too much to handle for this rag tag team of players, mostly made up from the Finnish league.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Marko Anttila
For 30 minutes, Finland had battled against Russia, and had held them to 0 – 0. For those, not in the know, ice hockey games are split into 3 periods of 20 minutes each, with an interval between each period. There are also unbelievably ‘ad breaks’.
TV timeouts are two minutes long, and occur three times per period: during normal game stoppages after the 6, 10, and 14 minute marks of the period, unless there is a power play or a goal has just been scored. Each team may also take one 30 second time-out which may only be taken during a normal stoppage of play.
Then the giant of the man, Marko Anttila, rose to the occasion to score the only goal of the game to send Finland into the final against Canada.
Mörkö Marko Anttila
Marko Anttila, who turned 34 on the 27th May 2019, and was a local team player (in the Russian league) not considered of great skill (according to the Finns) and at a height of 2.03 was a giant of a man who looked at times to be so awkward on the ice, that ‘it was quite amazing that he was still in fact playing for the Finnish National team’.
Mörkö is the ghost-like character from ‘muumit’. In English, it is known as The Groke and is a fictional character in the Moomin stories created by Tove Jansson.
Having scored the goal against Russia, Mörkö rose to cult status, with the local Finnish TV replaying his goal over and over again. The Finnish public began to chant ‘Mörkö’, ‘Mörkö’ continually.
There was immense pride for this really not so good team and they just poured admiration onto Marko Mörkö Anttila
The final Canada vs Finland
Canada were looking for a 3rd Gold in 5 years, while Finland had not won the World Championship since 2011.
Wow, we in the final, it has been a nice ride, surely, surely this is the end of the road.
It seemed so, when Canada went into an early lead, and especially after Finland failed to convert a penalty. It seemed as though their luck had come to an end.
Not so for ‘Mörkö’
His time was now, and having not scored a goal in any of the group stage games, he would equalise against Canada. This took his tally to 3 goals in 3 games.
This for a player spoken of as :
“Anttila is also a good skater for a player of his stature – he has decent speed and is hard to steal the puck from. Anttila possesses a hard wrist-shot, though his release can be slow and he occasionally struggles with accuracy.”
In the 2nd period, Anttila would equalise and Finland erupted, with the chanting of ‘Mörkö’ ‘Mörkö’, no doubt heard across Finland.
The game was still on and at 1 – 1, Canada were looking to take control again. This inevitably would not happen as Finland would score again, to take the lead.
You guessed it, it was that man ‘Mörkö’ again.
The ‘bogeyman’ had scored yet again.
With 17 minutes still to go of the 3rd period, the Finns were not safe. However, Finland had only conceded two goals in the final period throughout the whole tournament. Against Russia they had put their bodies on the line and with Canada applying the pressure, body blocks were again in evidence with Canada 16 shots to Finland’s two during the 3rd period.
Harri Pesonen scored Finland’s 3rd with 4 minutes to go, to put their nation 3 – 1 ahead.
Canada threw everything they could at Finland but they would not budge and the youngsters led by their Mörkö, would hold on for an incredible and most unlikely victory.
Finland were the 2019 World Ice Hockey Champions and Marko Mörkö Anttila had reached cult status and a place in history.
“Löikö Mörkö sisään?”
article by Gavin Doyle