HELSINKI -- Thousands of hockey fans from here in Finland crammed into Hartwall Areena to see the Anaheim Ducks play Tuesday, and they cheered at times in a way that made it feel almost like a home game for the club.
There were about 150 fans sitting together who did not have decide between rooting for the local team, Jokerit, or for Anaheim’s Finnish players, or both -- those fans are here from the Anaheim area.
"I think you could hear the 'Let's Go Ducks' chant once in a while, which was cool that they were cheering for us even though there were all the Helsinki fans in the stadium," Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller said. "It is great to have that support."
A Ducks team spokesman said the organization originally planned for 100 fans, but ended up with about 150 for the trip. The team helped organize a travel and ticket package for the fans, and also helped with some tourism activities once they got here.
As a reward for making the commitment of traveling about 5,600 miles, the Ducks had a reception for the fans with the players and coaching staff at Hartwall Areena after practice Wednesday. The fans were able to take pictures, get autographs and have lunch with the players in a restaurant/bar inside the arena sponsored by Karjala, which is a Finnish beer that is part of the Hartwall brewing company. The bar resembled a mine shaft, with wooden trusses and exposed rocks similar to the ones near the visiting dressing room.
"It is unbelievable. It really shows that we have some great fans, and they support us all over the world where ever we go," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "I remember when we went to London (to start the 2007-08 season) there was a few there, too, and it is just a good way to thank them for coming over and supporting us."