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Hockey in Helsinki

On my recent trip to Helsinki, I wanted to not only see some of the main tourist attractions, but also experience what Finnish people do and so, when someone suggested I take in an ice hockey match, that sounded like a great opportunity to do just that. Ice hockey – or simply hockey as they would call it – is the most popular sport in Finland and the national team is ranked second in the world in the IIHF World Rankings. Many would say it’s their national sport although apparently that’s the much less popular game of pesäpallo – a Finnish version of baseball. So how was I going to take in a game? My first port of call was the tourist information centre who directed me towards Stockmann‘s, Helsinki’s equivalent of Harrod’s. Stockmann There, on the uppermost floors, is a ticket office and another information centre, and this is where I was served by the ever-helpful Pamela. Her English – like that of seemingly all the Finnish people I met – was perfect, which was useful considering my Finnish didn’t go much beyond “hei” (hello). Pemela When I expressed an interest in seeing a hockey match, Pamela was immediately able to tell me that there was one taking place later that day – Helsinki IFK would be at home against the Lahti Pelicans (Lahti is a city about an hour north of Helsinki) in the Liiga, the top league in Finland. It was at this point she produced an almighty lever-arch file packed full of seating plans from venues throughout the city and possibly beyond, and quickly turned to the relevant page – the Helsingin jäähalli (or Helsinki Ice Hall), capable of holding up to 8,200 people. Thanks to her advice, I was able to choose a great aisle seat and get a good view of all the action. She went further than that, though, telling me which tram to catch and providing me with a map showing the venue’s whereabouts. She even gave me a brief background about the two teams, informing me that the Pelicans were coached by the former national coach and HIFK by one of their former’s players. I understand there are other venues around the city where you can get tickets (such as the many R-Kioski outlets that you see). However, if like me you don’t really know what you’re doing, then I’d recommend calling at Stockmann’s ticket office as they really gave me the time of day and talked me through the various options. Research by American Express into customer service found that almost half of us (46%) feel compelled to tell someone else about a great service experience straight away or within the same day and on average will tell up to 20 people, over half of whom will then go onto share the same story and positive feelings with others. Thanks to Pamela’s guidance and the help of one or two passengers on the tram who ensured I got off at the right stop, finding the venue wasn’t so difficult, although I arrived with just 15 minutes or so to spare. HIFK's ice hockey stadium Inside, fans were gathering for the game. Inside HIFK's ice hockey stadium There was a real buzz of excitement as the match got underway and the stadium was fairly close to capacity. HIFK versus Lahti Pelicans By the end of the first period, HIFK had taken a 3-1 lead. pamela8 They extended this to 4-1 in the second period with this goal from Eero Somervuori.
YouTube video
At this point they looked to be cruising to victory and the cheerleaders were in full swing. HIFK cheerleaders However, in the final period the Pelicans came back with two goals to make for a nervy finish. With some good defending, HIFK managed to hang on, though, and the game finished 4-3. HFIK Helsinki Although this wasn’t my first time at an ice hockey match, it was certainly the most memorable and my thanks goes to Pamela for making the process of booking a ticket and finding the venue such a straightforward task. A full match report – for those who are interested – can be found on the HIFK site, here. This trip was carried out in partnership with American Express, in a quest to find examples of great customer service.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. City breaks with the local touch – don´t we all want that? Great that someone thought of suggesting the hockey game to you. This is a great learning that tourism promoters should remember to pay more and more attention on how to cater ” living like locals” experiences for all traveler segments.

  2. Yes, Heli, it was actually suggested to me by two Finns I sat next to on the plane. I felt it was a good opportunity to do something typically Finnish yet not too touristy.

    When I was there, I got the feeling I could have been the only tourist present, although I would imagine there must have been a handful of others amongst the few thousand people present…

  3. Well, unfortunately November is not exactly a season for tourism in Helsinki, so it is possible you were the only tourist in the ice hall. Could have been some business people as well though brought by their Finnish hosts. So, for those who do not wish to come during the high season, November is a perfect time to visit Finland and experience the life as we Finns live it…with the help from the locals as you did during your trip :-) Happy to hear that you had good customer service experiences!

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