Good afternoon from Finland, where I'm about to board the team bus for Tampere, Finland, which is 110 miles north of Helsinki.
Get out a piece of paper and draw a triangle. The top is Tampere, the bottom right is Helsinki, the bottom left is Turku.
Not only am I a navigational whiz, I'm a geometry whiz. My nickname in high school was, "Heptagon."
The Wild visits the Finnish Elite League team, Ilves, at 11 a.m. Central Time, 7 p.m. Jari Kurri Time.
The game, which will be played on the bigger/not-NHL ice sheet, is not televised. The game is not on radio (bright side: no Falness!).
That means my Twitter is one of the rare places you can actually get real-time updates on this 11 a.m. exhibition, so go to www.twitter.com/russostrib and click FOLLOW. Do it now! Do it!
As you can see by clicking this link, Ilves is currently the second-worst team in the Finnish Elite League, only better than that sad team to the east of here that just may be partly owned by a certain captain who wears Iron Range Red (The Iron Range Red goaltender's team, HIFK, happens to be the second-best; just sayin').
According to Finnish reporter Juha Hiitelä (http://hiitela.blogspot.com and SBS Cityradios; twitter @jhiitela), Ilves has the smallest payroll in the Elite League at 1,5 million euros. Last game, they had seven skaters born 1990 and later. In comparison, Kärpät Oulu (the team Backstrom used to star on) has the biggest payroll, 2,8M, IFK 2,7M, Jokerit 2,6M. Average salary of Finnish League player is a little more than 60K.
In the NHL, you can only dress 18 skaters. Not here in Scandanavia. The Wild plans to play 20 healthy skaters tonight. Martin Havlat, who was limping around yesterday, and Guillaume Latendresse (hip flexor) won't play, and all 8 defensemen could play in a final audition for Wednesday's defenseman cut. Could it be Drew Bagnall, or would the Wild actually put Clayton Stoner's 525K salary in the minors?
Here are the links to my articles in your morning paper:
Wild notebook, leading with Mikael Granlund watching practice with some funny Nick Schultz-Mikko Koivu stuff and other odds and ends.
The main story was a feature on all the colorful fans at practice, as well as the tour around Helsinki.
A couple videos I shot pieced together by Shari Gross:
Also, a few hours ago, I tweeted some other videos I thought you may like that didn't make the Strib videos. Sorta, cleaning out the laptop before I send all these videos to the recycling bin. So again, that's twitter.com/russostrib to find those videos. Highly recommend it. Award-winning stuff.
I did throw some videos up yesterday that were pretty funny, too, like the background noise in the Havlat one and the Marek Zidlicky one I still think is hilarious. So if you go to my twitter and follow, you can make your way down my archived tweets and get to those videos, too.
And of course, you can go to www.facebook.com/startribunemikerusso for full picture galleries
I hope you're enjoying the Star Tribune's coverage from here in Finland.
Last night, the Wild's AHL affiliate, Houston, shut out the Texas Stars, 5-0, in its lone preseason game. Matt Hackett made 21 saves for the shutout and the Aeros got goals from Robbie Earl, Warren Peters, Max Noreau, Jamie Fraser and Jon DiSalvatore. The Aeros open the season Saturday vs. Oklahoma City, the day Jose Theodore is expected to end his conditioning stint that isn't technically a conditioning stint.
For Tuesday's paper, I'll have coverage on the Wild's exhibition game at Ilves and I did a really neat feature on 2010 first-round pick Mikael Granlund with some good color in there from Wild owner Craig Leipold, GM Chuck Fletcher, Finnish legend Ville Peltonen (Granlund's linemate at more than half his age) and a 16-year-old Granlund fan named Tuomas Eloholma.
Here's some pics from the game:
Granlund mural that's all over this town and Helsinki Ice Hall
Home of HIFK. Very cool areeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeena
Granlund prepping for a faceoff
Granlund taking the faceoff, or perhaps hypnotized by the lineman's jersey
Talk to you next from the bus home from today's Ilves game. Remember, www.twitter.com/russostrib for real-time updates starting before 11 a.m. CT