– Wow! Is this some joke? What the hell is that dude?
I still vividly remember the amazement of my North American colleagues when they saw for the first time Marko Anttilan skating to the rink at the South Korean Olympics.
– Can such a tall man play as a striker? His racket is longer than the other players! Now look at that skating position!
In the 2018 Olympics, Anttila didn’t stand out in the games, but it happened the following year. And a lot.
In the spring of 2019, one of the most exceptional phenomena in Finnish hockey history, Mörkö, was born in Kosice, Slovakia. In those games, journalists from across the Atlantic no longer wondered what kind of guy this is, but the question was: how can that giant be deciding all the important games.
Mörkö scored four goals in the World Cup tournament in Slovakia. Each of them was written directly into blue and white puck history.
Without Anttila’s last-minute equalizer, Leijonat would have fallen to Sweden in the quarterfinals. In the semifinal, Mörkö scored the winning goal in the Russian net. And in the final two hits on Canada’s goal.
The people were confused. The ringing of “Löikko Mörkö inn” echoed in every promontory and island.
At the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Anttila scored the winning goal in the final. Olympic gold. The confusion of the people continued. In the spring of the same year, Mörkö was able to raise the WC trophy again to a height of three meters.
Something completely different emerged from Anttila in Leijon than in the club teams, where he has excelled as an underpowered player and extinguishing the opposition’s stars. Sure, Anttila did the same overall work in the national team as well, but he catapulted himself into iconic status with those unexpected goals.
Anttila made himself a successful hockey player and national hero against all expectations. His story is like a movie, at the end of which every viewer cries from emotion.
On Thursday evening in Tampere, the movement could be heard and seen.
Anttila ended his national team career for these World Championships. When Mörkö walked around the ice of the arena for the last time in a lion jersey, both Anttila’s and the audience’s eyes got wet.
It’s easy to see why fans love Mörkö.
If Anttila’s personality had to be described in one sentence, it would fit perfectly Jukka Jalonen characterization after Jalonen had appointed Anttila as captain of the Lions for the first time.
– “Stretsi” is such an empathetic person, Jalonen explained the choice of captain.
Anttila is really empathetic. To his teammates, fans, media, everyone.
Anttila’s influence on people is not limited to hockey. Anttila is a role model. His example encourages people to chase their dreams, to make the impossible possible.
Mörkö has also wanted to help children and young people find their own dreams.
I talked to Anttila after his last national team game. He spoke beautifully and touchingly about what he had experienced in Leijon.
– I’m very thankful. I went through all possible emotions, cold shivers and tears… a big thank you to everyone.
Anttila told who the most important people have been for him in his national team career.
– Of course, the entire management team, that includes all the coaches, Jere (Leafy) and Kölli (Mika Kortelainen). Hero (Wormwood) and Julli (Juha Sulin) have been the heart of the team spirit for many years. All the players, there are so many of them that the last five or six years have been drawn with.
After that, Mörkö swallowed once, restrained his emotions and continued:
– However, the biggest thanks goes to that home, wife and daughter. The man has enjoyed himself here again for eight weeks, so let’s go help a little there at home.
At that point, I got a lump in my throat.
This spring, the Lions’ tournament did not end with a golden celebration, but without Anttila, the championships might have remained a distant dream for Finland in recent years.
A very special chapter in the story of the Lions has now come to an end.