Five-year absence rejuvenated Finn
Canada, for instance, doesn’t have a single rookie, while the Czechs have nothing but rookies (this being their first WW at the top level). Switzerland has eight WW rookies while Sweden, having a tough time without three veterans—Erika Holst, Gunilla Andersson Danijela Rundqvist—has six WW first-timers. Russia has a new general manager, former NHLer Alexei Yashin, who is trying to inject a sense of urgency and higher ambition into his program, and the Americans have a nice blend of old and new.
Few players, though, leave the game and return many years later, but Finland’s Vilma Tarvainen is a special case. The 26-year-old hasn’t played at the Women’s Worlds since 2008, her one and only top-level tournament. The Finns beat Switzerland, 4-1, that year to win bronze, and Tarvainen disappeared thereafter.
“I continued to play ice hockey, but not with the national team,” she said. “Now I feel motivated to play and work hard to do my best, so I’m back with the national team. From 2008 to now, I played for me, because I love to play. I was with the club team Oulu Karpat.”
At 5’2” and 152 lbs. (157cm/69kg), she is the second shortest player at the tournament (Monika Bittner of Germany, at 5’1”/156cm has the greater distinction in this regard) and has noticed the difference in five years.
“For me, players are always big because I’m small,” she said with a laugh. “But the players are definitely faster and more skilled than they were five years ago, that’s for sure. And I’m five years older, so it’s tougher than before.”Continue reading
Nevertheless, it was her passion for the game that brought her back, and her timing couldn’t have been better. Finland is without three top veterans this year (Terhi Mertanen, Pia Lund, and Anne Helin), so just having an experienced defenceman is a bonus for first year coach Mika Pieniniemi.
In the interim, Tarvainen started a successful business painting houses in Oulu and playing locally, but she missed the higher level of competition and went to training camp last fall. Her enthusiasm is tempered by reality, though, and she makes no promises to play for another decade.
“One year at a time,” she cautioned, before referring to the obvious, “but the Olympics are next year and I want to play there very much.”
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