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2010 Winter Olympics: Team Finland Out For Swedish Blood On Sunday

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IFebruary 20, 2010

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 26:  Olli Jokinen #12 of Finland tries to take a shot on goal in front of Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of Sweden during the final of the men's ice hockey match between Finland and Sweden during Day 16 of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 26, 2006 at the Palasport Olimpico in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

On Friday night, Teemu Selanne became the highest scoring player in Olympic hockey history.

Following the game, a member of the Finnish press asked Selanne to recount his most memorable game in Olympic competition.

It could have been the game he had just played, after all, in how many games does one make history?

It wasn't.

He might have mentioned Finland's improbable upset of a Wayne Gretzky lead Canadian team in 1998 to capture the bronze medal.

He didn't.

No, Selanne's most memorable game didn't result in a medal or a history making performance; it was Finland's elimination of Sweden in the 1998 quarter-finals.

In the world of hockey, rivalries don't get much more bitter than that that exists between Finland and Sweden.

On Sunday, this rivalry will be renewed once more and Team Finland, along with the entire country they represent, is looking to beat the team that stole gold from them four years ago in Torino.

Yes, that's how the Finns saw it in 2006.

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A Finnish friend of mine recently recounted how he got that news four years ago, via an SMS feed on his cell phone on a flight from California to New York, and did not rejoice that the Finns had won silver, but lamented that they had "lost the gold" to the hated Swedes.

The "big brother/little brother" that exists between Sweden and Finland is one centuries in the making.

In the 1200's, Swedish nobility claimed Finland as part of Sweden and marginalized the Finnish language and culture as merely hallmarks of the peasant class.

Even the nation's name, "Finland," is of Swedish origin.

No wonder "Suomi," Finnish for Finland, is so boldly displayed on the team's jersey.

Though 800 years removed from Swedish infiltration and long since established as a sovereign nation, Finns still view Swedes as aristocratic interlopers.Β 

As good as the Swedish hockey team is, Finns can't easily bring themselves to acknowledge their greatness.Β  Indeed, their success in international hockey is often attributed to luck.

Says my Finnish friend, Matti, "We still feel that the Swedes are luckier and we are the underdogs. Realistically they are not luckier, they just keep believing in their own stuff."

Spoken like a true Finn.

Two weeks ago, a public broadcasting company in Helsinki, Finland broadcast the 1995 World Championship final between Finland and Sweden, one of Finland's proudest moments, as they beat Sweden 4-1 to capture the country's first and only gold medal.

Though 15 years removed from the victory, the defeat of Sweden, and that on Swedish soil (the tournament was held in Stockholm, Sweden), is still a sweet taste on the lips of most Finns and one they long for once again.

The rematch between the 2006 gold medal round participants should be a great one.Β 

Both teams are loaded with veteran talent and great goal-tending and have yet to lose in this year's tournament.

That will change on Sunday and though there is no medal on the line, the 800 year grudge between the two nations will make this one of the highlights of the entire Olympic Games.