Finns And Swedes – Rivalry Ratched Up

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

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SWEDEN and FINLAND first met at a major international tournament for ice hockey in 1949 at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships held in Stockholm. The far-more experienced Swedes, skating on home ice, flattened the Finns 12-1. Thereafter, Swedish domination of their Scandinavian neighbor would continue for some time…

At the 1972 Sapporo Games in Japan, Sweden’s chances for the silver medal appeared to be rather promising as the Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament arrived at it’s conclusion :

  • 3-0-1 — 7 pts : + 17 — SOVIET UNION
  • 3-1-0 — 6 pts : + 16 — CZECHOSLOVAKIA
  • 2-1-1 — 5 pts :   + 5 — SWEDEN
  • 2-2-0 — 4 pts :    - 2 — UNITED STATES
  • 1-3-0 — 2 pts :  - 11 — FINLAND 
  • 0-4-0 — 0 pts :  - 25 — POLAND

Czechoslovakia were slated to meet their old adversaries from the Soviet Union in the very last match; the very same USSR who are the defending World / Olympic champion nine years running now. The United States would skate with the Poles, who were winless, to start the final day. In between, the Swedes would face their traditional rivals, the Finns.

Irrespective of the Americans’ result, the Swedes could secure the silver with a victory over Suomi coupled with a Soviet defeat of the Czechoslovaks.

For the Finns and Swedes, the engagement in Japan would mark the 24th meeting of the two nations at major international events. Sweden had won 18 of the first twenty-three matches and tied three others. The Finns were improving, though, and had finally registered a pair of victories at the World Championships within the past few years leading up to the Sapporo Games.

The next-door neighbors had met three times previously at the Winter Olympics — Sweden sweeping all three matches and outscoring Finland 21-3 with the average margin of victory at six goals per game.

Any Finnish disappointment left over from the loss to the United States in the previous game, however, dissipated immediately after HEIKKI JARN put his name on the scoresheet versus Sweden roughly three minutes into the Finns’ final match.

Backed by two goals from BJORN PALMQVIST, the Swedes staked a 3-2 lead after two periods. But more than halfway thru the third and final frame, disaster would strike Tre Kronor’s ship. Finland’s MATTI KEINONEN scored at 12:43 and was followed two minutes and fifteen seconds later by LAURI MONONEN.

When Sweden failed to put another puck past JORMA VALTONEN, Finland had pulled off an important if improbable upset at the Winter Olympics over the “dear enemy”.

The loss had drastic consequences for the Swedes. The United States had already defeated Poland as expected. After the Soviet Union, indeed, dumped Czechoslovakia 5-2, Sweden were shut out of the medals entirely.

The Finns, no doubt, were not upset with their neighbor’s misfortune.

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JUHANI TAMMINEN, who scored Finland’s second goal of the match, also later spent two seasons in the old World Hockey Association. Tamminen played for the Cleveland Crusaders during the 1975-76 season and was Mononen’s teammate in Phoenix the following year.

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