EDMONTON - As Northern European rivals Finland and Sweden set up to do battle in the semifinal of the world juniors, something very disturbing has come to light: The kids today don't seem to be into heavy metal.
Starting with Finland, hockey and metal have a big history together: Jere Lehtinen and Janne Niinimaa once tried to add Slayer to the Dallas Stars' playlist only to watch Mike Modano throw the CD across the room. Toni Lydman hung out with Mastodon, while Tuukka Rask was gifted a replica Metallica drum set when he played his 500th game for the Bruins.
Last year at the world juniors, Finnish coach Antti Pennanen showed his players a pump-up video set to Children of Bodom, the legendary melodic death metal band from Espoo, before the bronze medal game, which they ended up winning.
"Jere Lehtinen (who was working for the national program) is a huge Children of Bodom fan and that was one of the reasons we created the video," Pennanen said. "I had the pleasure to see those guys after the tournament and it was huge for me."
But it seems the next generation isn't as thrash-happy.
"I don't know about heavy, heavy metal," said Toronto Maple Leafs pick Roni Hirvonen. "We like some good rock like AC/DC...Children of Bodom have a couple of good songs. I think it has changed. We listen to a lot of different styles of music. I like rock and hip-hop and country."
Fellow Leafs prospect Topi Niemela struck a similar chord: he's a fan of Finnish rap and pop music and notes that the dressing room playlist is pretty varied.
"There's every kind of music," Niemela said. "On game days, it's more rock music because it's a game and you have to be ready."
For Pennanen, who played for HPK's junior program in the late 1990s and has been coaching various age groups (including the Liiga) for the past decade-plus, he has definitely seen a change away from the dark arts in the room.
"I think so," he said. "But sometimes I've heard Disturbed in the dressing room so it's good for me; I like that kind of music. And one of my favorites of course is Metallica."
Over in the Swedish dressing room, it's the same thing. The city of Gothenburg is known as the mecca for melodic death metal, but its best young hockey players aren't headbanging to At the Gates or In Flames anymore. While Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner has used In Flames iconography on his masks for years, that reverence for heavy metal doesn't extend to Boston Bruins prospect Fabian Lysell or Detroit Red Wings pick Simon Edvinsson, both Gothenburg natives.
"I haven't listened to it a lot," Edvinsson said. "Maybe my parents did."
Ouch. That one kinda hurts. Meanwhile, Lysell actually had the opposite experience as a kid.
"My parents aren't the biggest fans of it, so I haven't heard much," he said. "I prefer hip-hop and pop."
Lysell said the Swedish dressing room tends to be soundtracked by a mix of hip-hop, house and pop music, while citing rapper Einar (a megastar in Sweden who was murdered in 2021) as one of his personal favorites.
The Swedes still have their famous victory song, however - the anthemic metal banger "En For Alla For En," a track that has been used for years and drawn fans from throughout the international hockey community.
"Well, I like that song," Lysell said. "Hopefully you'll hear it (today) too."