SOCHI, Russia – It was 61 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday in Sochi, as the Olympic Park felt more like spring fun than Winter Games.
So Team Finland decided to take a group bike ride … to their opening game of the men’s hockey tournament against Austria.
“First time I got to the game on a bike,” said defenseman Olli Maata, a defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins, after Finland's 8-4 win. “Little blue bikes. Looked kind of funny.”
While there are bikes available throughout the Olympic Athletes Village, these ones were provided to the team by the Finnish Olympic Committee to make travel around the Olympic Athletes Village easier. The Finns’ housing in the Coastal Cluster is a good distance away from some of the amenities like the cafeteria and rec center. But the Olympic Park in Sochi, where both ice arenas are located, is right next to the athletes’ housing.
On Thursday, the Finns hopped on their bikes; and five minutes later, they were at Bolshoy Arena ready to gear up for their opening game.
It wasn't a typical day for players more used to planes, buses and their own cars to the arena.
“I was talking with Olli Jokinen today, and he said, ‘When’s the last time you biked?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever biked,” said defenseman Sami Lepisto.
So when was the last time Jokinen, the 35-year-old veteran center, took a bike to the game?
“It’s been 20 years. It was kinda nice, actually,” he said.
Jokinen said he hadn’t ridden to a game since his days in Kuopio, Finland, as a youth player. “My parents didn’t have a car, so I would ride my bicycle every time,” he said.
Of course, it wasn’t always as lovely as it was in Sochi on Thursday.
“Obviously when it was minus-25, I took the bus."