In mid May 2022, my wife and I went to Helsinki for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. The organizers were quite heavily hit by the Russian attack on the Ukraine as they had to change the Helsinki venue some two months before the first puck drop. The originally scheduled Hartwall Arena / Helsinki Arena is in fact a Russian company and thus not used since end of February 2022. Thus, they had to move to Helsinki Ice Hall – or Helsingin Jäähalli, how it is named in Finnish. I take you with me to my World Championship experience, the rating is based on the arena experience only.
Helsinki Ice Hall – Location & Admission
Helsinki Ice Hall has quite an ideal location in Central Helsinki. The venue is the Northern neighbor of the Olympic Stadium and the soccer-only Bolt Arena in the Olympic Park. You can reach the arena by three tram lines (2, 4, 10) easily. Line 2 stops slightly closer to the place. At one of Helsinki’s main roads, the Mannerheimintie, which is just a few minutes walk away, there are also numerous buses to the city center and other destinations.
Given that there are so many sports venues around, there is a surprisingly low number of according services. There is a fast food restaurant North of the stadium. The Mannerheimintie also features some bars and restaurants. There are some parking lots around the arena. As I wrote in my Olympic Stadium review, some of them might be tricky for foreign visitors, as they in fact require a Finnish mobile.
Helsinki Ice Hall – Arena & Ticket Situation
Helsingin Jäähalli has been opened in 1966. It used to be home of Jokerit Helsinki, but is now only used by HIFK. You unfortunately see the age of the arena. The aisles here and there feel strange and rather narrow, the building does not have too much signature elements from inside as well. However, I feel, they did a great job regarding the comfortable seating and there is a wide availability of toilets, compared to some modern arenas. Even though they have a rather new video cube, the screens are just too small, as you can see on the pictures. This on the one hand means that it does not show statistics like live shots on goal. On the other hand, it is realistically not helping you to better explore scenes you might not be able to see ideally from your seat.
In general, I feel that the arena feels as modern as it can (which is just very limited). One thing I did like are a lot of pictures on the wall reminding of all the sports idols who have competed in Helsinki Ice Hall already (also for concerts, other sports events etc.). The WiFi is poor and broke down even during low-attendance games, though.
Helsinki Ice Hall – Atmosphere
I do buy in that this World Championships had a lot of challenges due to the late change of venue. Nonetheless, I was disappointed about the 2022 experience. There was practically no pre-game show, the speakers, especially on Day 1 were bad. You did not even have the line-ups of the two participating teams on the video screen before the match (I feel at at a World Cup, you should have portrait pictures…). While the goal and penalty reviews were shown on Day 1, they did neither show nor explain why the match were interrupted several times on the second Day. The mascot Miracleo is quite nice and very present.
Regarding fan atmosphere, the match between Germany and Slovakia was amazing. Both teams were supported by a four-digit number of fans, especially the German fans cheered for their team most of the time. There was also quite a high number of Swiss fans – but they rather supported their team by being present rather than being loud – this may change in the “rivalry” and important matches against Germany and Slovakia. Denmark lead to a bit of atmosphere. Bad luck that the other matches did not really spread WC feeling – especially as the moderation and musical entertainment rather felt to turn down people than to encourage them to cheer for their teams.
Helsinki Ice Hall – Eat & Drink
There are quite a lot of food and drink booths in the arena (with a quite significant number of closed outlets). However, Finnish venue prices, especially on the popular alcoholic liquids side, are massive. A 33 cl beer was about 9 Euro. The arena offered some food, but finally, there was a rather limited selection of items. You are not allowed to bring alcohol inside the arena itself – you have to consume it in the outer ring.
Helsinki Ice Hall – Service
The staff was really friendly and helpful, but overall, the service experience at Helsinki Ice Hall was low. Especially due to the Mall of Tripla Fan Zone (see below), there was hardly any sensible option how to spend time between the matches. The only food in front of Helsinki Ice Hall was a pizza vendor. No additional food or drinks, no merchandise (!). I have seen much better places than that. As the Jäähalli typically did not open more than two or three doors overall, entering the arena before the match was a challenge, indeed.
IIHF World Championship Fan Zone
World’s biggest Fan Zone – the IIHF WC 2022 promised nothing less than that when it comes to the fan zone at the new Mall of Tripla, the largest mall of the Nordic countries. However, the fan zone was a huge disappointment. The fan areas at other World Championships I have been at were definitely larger and more attractive. Finally, there were just a few sponsored activities and two screens, a large one and a small one. Team merchandise (apart from Finland)? “We have not received them yet” has been the reply I got from one of the volunteers.
Apart from that, the Mall of Tripla (also a sponsor of the event) is nicely located to Hartwall Arena, but just average to the Helsinki Ice Hall. You can walk between the places and the organizers also signed the directions – but finally, the place was too far away for the some 90 minute pause between the matches.
Helsinki Ice Hall – My View
Of course, Helsinki Ice Hall is not (any more) a venue which is suitable for an Ice Hockey World Championship. 2022 was a special year, there were special reasons for this legendary venue to host some big names of the sports again. My review can’t be too good – even though they really feel to try to somehow keep the arena as modern as possible, this place is looking back to half a decade of sports and event history. The IIHF WC 2022 organizers also did not manage to adjust to the new venue completely – not having a merchandise booth outside the arena or not being able to sell jerseys of the Helsinki teams is just ridiculous.
Nonetheless, thanks to the organizers and the volunteers – having that event in Turku (which would have been the alternative, likely), would have lead to even more chaos to the teams and fans. At least, the matches I saw at Helsinki Ice Hall created some memories I will never forget.
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