Today’s result in the WHC is a great disappointment. Canada lost and the young gun Oilers are on summer break. What’s an Oiler fan to do? Cheer for Finland of course!!
Edmonton’s love affair with Finland began with this man, Jari Kurri. His career was a groundbreaking item for Finnish players and the National Hockey League. Here’s a 1981 interview with Barry Fraser, Oilers head scout. He’s talking about Kurri and what he needs to do in order to "make it."
That’s a January 31, 1981 article by Terry Jones in the EJ btw, thanks to him for being there to chronicle. At that time, there were FIVE Finns in the NHL. This past season, there were 26 Finns in the NHL, with Teemu Selanne being the most famous and possibly Edmonton’s Teemu (Hartikainen) being the least famous. The Swedes still have way more (54 this past season) but at least the gap has closed and Finland has their own Salming’s and Hedberg’s in men like Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne.
In the older times, before the Oilers owned the city the young soldiers were pretty much like everyone else. During the early 80s I was on the fringe of Edmonton sports media. Did an afternoon show just before John Short came on CFRN radio and of course the Oiler game would start at 7 or 7:30. I would meet a lot of the Oilers and Eskimos of the era as they came in to record or do live hits with John when the club was at home or in the summer.
I remember Jari Kurri very well. Extremely nice person, not at all a prima donna or arrogant. Spent about an hour with Mr. Kurri in a voice booth voicing a commercial and well remember him trying to read a script (this was early in his Edmonton career) and he worked very hard to get his lines down. My read was before and after his and the producer wanted to get it all in one take (the technology today allows terrific cuts to take out breathing and slurs but back in the day it was a razor and splicing tape) so poor Mr. Kurri had to stand there take after take.
I bet he read it 30 times, patiently. His read ended "tell them Jari sent you!" and during the final take as he nailed everything I cheered for him just as hard as I did when he was an Oiler. To this day I can’t imagine trying to read a script in foreign language.
Jari Kurri was a class act, left his footprint on this city and its people. It could have ended there, but the fact is that with each Finn arrival the bond grew stronger.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I can’t explain to you all the reasons why I’ll be cheering for Finland from here to the end of the WHC. All I can tell you is that it had a lot to do with Jari Kurri and his countrymen who have played in our beloved copper, orange and blue.
Go Finland! I know your party is already rocking. And if you’re lucky enough to be at the WJ and people notice you’re cheering for Finland, tell them Jari sent you.