Hockey diplomacy livens up Finland – Canada state visit

Saku Koivu in his Montreal Canadiens uniform during a face-off against the Boston Bruins during game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series in 2008. (Getty Images)
Saku Koivu in his Montreal Canadiens uniform during a face-off against the Boston Bruins during game six of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series in 2008. (Getty Images)
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is getting a helping hand from ice hockey on state his visit to Canada.

Niinistö has invited former Montreal Canadiens captain—and Finnish national team hero—Saku Koivu to join his Service d’honneur in recognition of his work bringing the two hockey-mad nations closer together.

President Sauli Niinistö is visiting Canada this week on a state visit. He’s hoping to use a little hockey diplomacy to boost bilateral relations by including former Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu in his entourage, officially known as the Service d’honneur.

The president’s website says that ”a person who has promoted relations between the two countries in his or her specific field, and made Finland known in the country visited, can be invited to join the Service d’honneur on state visits.”

Koivu certainly fits that bill, as the first European to captain one of the biggest and best-known hockey clubs in Canada. He has also won the World Championships in 1995 and taken an Olympic silver medal in 2006.

The presidential visit starts on Thursday with a trip to the Canadian capital in Ottawa to meet Canadian Prime Minister (and keen hockey historian) Stephen Harper before moving on to Toronto on Friday, where among other appointments Niinistö and Koivu will check in at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A large trade delegation will accompany the president as he aims to boost Canadian-Finnish co-operation in the Arctic.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuk NHL star Jordin Tootoo stick giveaway video goes viral, CBC News

Greenland:  2016 Arctic Winter Games to cut 6 sports, CBC News

Russia:  Big hockey weekend for Eye on the Arctic community, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Arctic hockey team to wear rainbow jerseys all season in support of LGBT rights in sport, Radio Sweden

United States:  Passport troubles keep some athletes from Arctic Winter Games in Alaska, CBC News

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