Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finland 2010, Part V: And now, the hockey part

(In this fifth installment of my blog series leading up to NHL Premiere 2010, featuring the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, Finland, we look at the other planning, now that the overland European rail segments are complete. And, we get team news.)

The planning is complete for the land portion of this Grand Adventure. The air portion is secured, save for seat assignments on the Helsinki-Paris segment on the return (since the flight is an Air France codeshare, {actually, it's a Finnair flight} we are bound by the rules of Air France, who do not pre-assign seats on flights within Europe). I still think that one of us will be waiting for the other one at Charles deGaulle when we land. But, that's just me, I guess.

We then turn our attention to the games themselves, as the Wild post a brief video showing the inside of Helsinki's Hartwall Areena, the site for the two NHL regular-season games between the Wild and the Carolina Hurricanes. Hartwall is large by European standards, but in the NHL, this arena would stand some expansion. Especially if the team was actually GOOD.

We also hear that Pierre-Marc Bouchard is healing well from his concussion, and is skating in open scrimmages in and around his native Montreal. That is another good sign for a team which, quite frankly, could have used a few down the stretch last season. Also, as summer drags on, the good news continues as the Wild have their developmental camp at the 'X', one which hopefully will bear fruit, in the form of young, hungry NHL-quality players. And soon, as the roster turnover continues, and the mistakes of the former regime are, one by one, politely shown the door.

We call our travel advisor about the game in Tampere. We are, indeed, hoping that the trip from Helsinki to Tampere (115 miles, or the distance from the 'X' to Willmar, Minnesota) will be by 220 KPH (135 MPH) 'Pendolino' tilt train, especially since the arena where Ilves Tampere plays is less than 2 KM (1.2 miles) from the train station. No suck luck; the trip is billed as a motor coach excursion.

"Oh, well," I kind of resignfully tell him. "Yeah, we'll do it anyway."

So, it will be off to Tampere we go on that Monday, Oct. 4, leaving around 2 PM Finnish time (6:00 AM at home) for a 7:00 PM Finnish time start (again, 11:00 AM in Minnesota). The trip is billed to return to the hotel at about 12:30 AM, so it will make for a long, long day. That will be a real jet-lag day for the rest of the group, who will have just landed the night before, after their all-air journeys from Minneapolis-St. Paul.

(Here's hoping everyone isn't too grouchy...)

Now we begin looking almost daily at exchange rates between the US dollar and the Euro, as we will need spending money while we're there, and there is no point giving the banks any more than we need to, in order to get this done. The Yo-Yo nature of currency exchange shows that it's up one week, and down the next. "We have to get this right," I tell my wife, "or otherwise we could be paying upwards of $100 more than we need to, for the same amount of money."

"That's your department, dear," she replied.

(to be continued)

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