Pekka Virta raves about the SM league match schedule and standings

Pekka Virta would like the SM league to take a model from Sweden.

  • – The series table is the best selling point of this product, Pekka Virta points out and questions the ragged series program of the SM league.
  • Iltalehti’s ice hockey expert is calling for a template similar to the SM league, which is played in the Swedish SHL.

– You often hear it said that Sweden has a much better hockey culture. That’s not quite the case, but we ourselves are messing with the SM league product with series programs, Pekka Virta says.

In Finland, there is a lot of discussion around serial systems. Sportingly closed 15-team League without qualifiers eats all the interest from the tail end of the table and kills dreams in Mestis.

– It is self-evident that it is a problem. But the big steak, which no one talks about, is that no other ball league in the world plays the series as stupidly as in Finland, Virta rumbles.

– We play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There is no order anywhere in Finland. This can be seen by comparing the leagues’ most important selling point, i.e. league tables, and the upcoming game schedule, which is also important to supporters.

Tappara beat its defending champion, the SHL team Rögle, in the quarterfinals of the CHL. Mika Kylmäniemi / AOP

In the SHL, the number of matches played by the teams is almost always equal, while in the SM league there are differences of up to four matches.

It complicates the interpretation of the table, because four games in arrears means up to 12 potential but still unseen points.

The varying number of matches affects the teams’ rankings very much in a series as even as the League is this season.

– It is difficult to follow the situation, Virta regrets.

Differences in everyday life

Iltalehti’s ice hockey expert Pekka Virta does not consider the difference in level of play between Liiga and SHL to be significant. Pasi stove country

The fragmented program is particularly taxing on weeknight league watching and audience numbers.

– Even though in Sweden you don’t get the same atmosphere during the week as on Saturdays, the biggest difference can be seen specifically in the weekday games. In Finland, there may be one sleepy game on Tuesday, while in Sweden, everyone is playing. Then the round is also followed, because it’s hockey day.

According to Virra, the SC league games on Friday and Saturday will get close to the SHL atmosphere and in some matches it will be even better. He mentions the Tampere derby in the new Nokia arena and as an example last Saturday’s Ässät–Ilves match in the sold-out Isomäki arena.

– We have great halls, such as in Pori and Vaasa. Now that we get people there, the cultural difference is not at all as great as imagined.

Since the atmosphere is often lacking on weekdays, according to Virra, then it would be worth playing only one or at most two rounds.

– Then a full round of matches would get attention all over Finland, even on a weekday. It’s starting to look like it’s worth playing full rounds on Fridays and Saturdays and accepting the challenges that moving teams requires – as well as the stress and risks of consecutive game days.

– Or you play full rounds on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Virta suggests the Swedish model.

Arbitration of games

Virta knows why the SM league program is full of compromises.

– The league makes the program on the terms of the clubs, because the league is clubs. If, for example, there are long journeys, the aim is to jelp.

Other events in large halls in particular impose boundary conditions on the game program.

– In Sweden, the club’s problem is organizing things so that it can play in that series, Virta refers to the SHL’s systematicity.

There are 14 teams in the SHL, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, as a rule, full and numbered rounds of matches are played.

– A full round of seven matches is always played. However, if a game ever has to be moved, the program will indicate which round the overdue game was moved from. Then the audience stays well on the map.

An odd number

The 15 teams in the SM league is already a challenging number, since you can never play a full round.

– In Sweden, you know every time that there is a round on Tuesday, there is a round on Thursday and there is a round on Saturday. You can make your own schedule depending on when you watch hockey and when you play floorball or whatever.

– Because of this, everyday games in Sweden have a completely different atmosphere. Fan groups and all spectators know to be there. That’s where the big difference comes from, there’s no difference in Saturday games.

Regarding the weekends, Virtra’s view of a “tie” can be considered a bit of a home run, as the opening shows of the matches are on average more impressive than in the SM league due to the greater resources of the SHL clubs.

In Finland, the public and fans are mostly just getting used to the Swedish support culture, even though the atmosphere can get really high in some matches.

The atmosphere ignites

Virta compares the game level from familiar starting points.

– Sweden has bigger budgets and basically better players, but that doesn’t mean that the game in Sweden is somehow miraculously much better. It is a distortion, because tactically very good hockey is played in Finland, Virta assures.

Virta knows that the atmosphere also affects the players’ performance.

– Yes, the audience and the event itself, for example, brought the Ässie team together to a great performance, he says about Pada’s 2-0 home win last Saturday.

– Many other top games are played in the league. At that point, the atmosphere is no different, but the Swedish players get to experience that constant encouragement in all games. Then the level of the game and individual small things will improve.

– The players are scratching their backs and throwing themselves. Every little bump in the nose becomes emotional states. People get experiences and want to come again.

– But if there are one-week breaks, it kills it, Virta returns to her criticism of the League’s program.

Taurus weeks

The teams also suffer from the confusing schedule, when the limits of physics start to come into play.

– Probably all the coaches have had time to complain about the match schedule. I’m not complaining this time, I’m just saying: yesterday’s game and a long journey until the middle of the night and then here, Pelicans head coach Tommi Niemelä said last week after the people of Lahti lost to Sport in Vaasa.

The match was the team’s Fifth in eight days, and the previous evening they had played and lost at home against Tappara.

For Tappara, the match in question was no less than the ninth in 14 days, including its two CHL semi-finals.

– It’s completely stupid. The SM league program is made on commercial terms, business and money first. The league tries to fulfill all wishes and meets in all possible matters.

For example, we want to minimize bus kilometers, which is often seen as two away games on consecutive nights “in the same direction”.

– When the program is not made on the terms of sports, then everyone complains in turn. Year after year, everyone is dissatisfied with their own program, Virta says, referring to the teams, not so much the clubs’ management ladder.

– I understand coaches. It’s an incredible situation, he states about the big differences in the teams’ stress.

– I believe that, in the long run, sports would produce more than a series program made under economic conditions. When the game goes on, the hall fills up.