Junior players of Finland’s Jokerit hockey club will make their first-ever appearance in the Gazprom Neft Cup, the biggest children’s ice-hockey tournament in Europe, just a few months before the Jokerit main team plays its first game in the Continental Hockey League (KHL).
Jokerit is one of the best known hockey franchises in Europe and a top prize-winner in Finland. The club was created in 1967, since when it has won the national championship six times, taken silver on another six occasions and won bronze twice. Jokerit is also two-times winner of the European Champions Cup and has taken the Continental Cup once.
The 300 Jokerit junior players start their training with a skating school, where youngsters master the skills of ice-hockey. Boys in this year’s new intake were born in 2008.
The young players travelling to the Gazprom Neft Cup in Minsk this year are a little older: boys in the team were born in
“Naturally, it is a great honour for our team to be invited to take part in such a top-class Tournament,” said the Jokerit-2003 head coach Juha Jokiharju. “This event draws junior teams from the best KHL clubs. We are pleased to have the chance of playing against them and we are really looking forward to the start of the Tournament. I expect the standard of play to be very high. The Gazprom Neft Cup means a lot to us, because matches against strong opponents will give us a better understanding of how good our players are — we will be able to judge the work we have done and compare ourselves with teams from other countries. Our aim in the Tournament is to develop each of our players individually. They must all do their best to win and keep playing hard right to the end. If our boys can do that in their matches, we will reckon that we have done a good job. And, of course, we want to win the Cup!”
The Finns will bring a 19 players to Minsk: two goal-keepers, seven defenders, and nine forwards. Jokerit will also bring a strong group of coaches, including a specialist for work with goaltenders. The club hopes that the Tournament will offer lessons that can be used to help develop children’s hockey in Finland.
The Jokerit boys are already training hard at home. They know that they have an appearance at the Gazprom Neft Cup ahead of them, and are looking forward to the start of the Tournament.
Daniel Fearnley, defender with Jokerit-2003
“I am looking forward to a great trip and some tough matches. I really want to take part in the Gazprom Neft Cup. We will have to play together well as a team if we want to win — there is no other way. It is really good to have competitions like this, where we can get experience in matches against foreign opponents.”
Eetu Suonpää, forward with Jokerit-2003
“I think we are all going to enjoy ourselves in this Tournament! Good spirits and good hockey are what is most important. I am really looking forward to seeing how good I am compared with juniors from other countries. We are training hard now so that we can feel confident in the Gazprom Neft Cup Tournament. I train regularly at home too — I try to handle puck around in my back yard as much as i can.”
Jere Rantanen, defender with Jokerit-2003
“I expect some tough matches and a great trip, one that we will remember. I want to find out something new, to learn things. We are now working on power play and short-handed play, practising technique. The Gazprom Neft Cup is a very important Tournament for us.”
“Our team will carry on training and play a few friendly matches in preparation to the Tournament,” Juha Jokiharju said. “We are hoping to show strong team play — that is what Finnish hockey is known for and it is what we are working on! This international tournament is very important for the future of our players. The Gazprom Neft Cup will let them see how good other players are, make new friends, and get excellent competition experience”.