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Canada, Finland on-ice battle also taking place in Barrie this weekend

'This a great tournament and it is a big honour to be here and our kids love it,' says Jokerit general manager

While the nation watches Canada and Finland battle it out in the semifinals at the World Junior Hockey Championship today, a group of 11-year-olds were taking it to an Ontario team Saturday morning.

The Helsingin Jokerit are playing in the Glenn Bellerby/Moose Winooski 'AA' hockey tournament this weekend, with a Team White and Team Blue.

Jokerit Blue is hoping to duplicate this morning’s result to the end of the weekend’s event, as they defeated Alliston’s TNT Tornados, 8-3, at the Holly Community Centre on Saturday to improve to 2-0 so far in the 84-team tournament.

The Finnish team, made up mainly of kids born in 2008, came over to Canada for the event about a week ago and players have been getting ready for not just the competition in Barrie, but also what their junior counterparts are doing in the must-watch game today.

Jokerit general manager Timo Uinonen told BarrieToday he's thankful his squad doesn’t have a game until after 5 p.m. as the big Canada versus Finland World Junior Hockey semifinal match got underway at 1 p.m.

The proud Finn was adamant his country would best the Canucks, but with a friendly banter.

“We’ll beat Canada, that is for sure,” said a smiling Uinonen. “We will be watching at the hotel and some of the players will get together with some Canadian families. It will be fun but we are cheering loudly for our players.”

At the end of the first period at the world juniors, Canada was leading the Finns, 4-0. 

Jokerit was founded in 1967 and helped groom some of the best players in the world. Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri (current GM of the organization) are two of the biggest names in hockey history and both came from the program. 

For Jokerit to be in Barrie for the weekend event is surely an honour for the host Barrie Minor Hockey Association, but Uinonen says it's just as much a big deal to the visitors.

“This a great tournament and it is a big honour to be here and our kids love it,” Uinonen said. “The Jokerit program has been here before and is coming back next year, too. It has developed a wonderful relationship between the two organizations and we will continue as long as we can.”

Thirty players, their coaches and some parents made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to be a part of the 25th annual hockey tournament. Planning starts a year in advance, with fundraising and finalizing details, but Uinonen told BarrieToday that, while hockey is the main reason they came to Barrie, it isn’t the only thing that is important in life. 

“We went to Niagara Falls, to a Buffalo Sabres game, a Raptors game and many other fun things,” said Uinonen. “This has been so much fun for the players and isn’t all about hockey, but learning about a new place for them.”

The Jokerit Blue play again at 5:30 p.m. against Sarnia Sting Jr., while Jokerit White squad plays 4:15 p.m. against the Mississauga Jets, also at Holly Comunity Centre. 

Today’s standings will help determine Sunday’s championship brackets.

For more details, head to the event’s website.