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Finnish president hits the ice with NHL stars – then announces hip surgery

Sauli Niinistö took part for a second time in an ice hockey tournament aimed at raising funds for climate projects.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö juttelee venäläisen kiekkolegenda Vjatsheslav Fetisovin kanssa.
President Niinistö chatted with Russian hockey veteran 'Slava' Fetisov in Helsinki on 9 February Image: Pekka Sipola / AOP

President Sauli Niinistö says he will undergo hip surgery in a couple of weeks. The 70-year-old president made the announcement a Facebook post after taking part in an informal ice hockey game in Helsinki on Saturday – making it clear that the operation was previously scheduled and not a result of any game injury.

The match was part of a light-hearted tournament with a serious aim: raising funds for local climate projects. Niinistö, once known as an avid rollerblader, also took part in the annual hockey event last year. This year marked the fifth such event at the Brahe ice rink in the Kallio district.

This year’s event, skated under a light drizzle, featured veteran NHL stars such as Jari Kurri, Teppo Numminen and Viacheslav ‘Slava’ Fetisov, as well as Tiia Reima and Emma Terho of the Olympic-medal-winning Finnish women’s ice hockey team. The ‘Lady Lions’ captured bronze medals at the 1998, 2010 and 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Arctic hockey game planned for 2020

This year’s tournament attracted a record 32 teams with more than 250 players.

Retired Russian defenceman Fetisov is arranging a UN-backed event billed as the Last Hockey Game on the Arctic ice in April 2020. It is intended to raise awareness of the region’s shrinking ice cover.

The event was organised by a group called Save Pond Hockey, which says it aims to “unite and mobilise the global hockey community against climate change”. It is arranging similar tournaments in February and March in Mikkeli, Tampere and Oulu.

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