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Finnish student to learn Canadian-style hockey

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Tuuli Harjunpaa decided to become an exchange student for two reasons—to learn English, and to play hockey.

But when pressed, she did admit, in very well-versed English, that she’s here mostly to play hockey.

Harjunpaa has been here since Aug. 27, and will spend the next 10 months with Debbie and Stewart Firth of Blackhawk.

“She’s our second exchange student,” Debbie Firth said, noting they were able to choose Harjunpaa from a file of exchange students.

Firth said her athletic background—especially in hockey—made their children insist the Finnish student stay with them.

“I play in Emo with the boys," Harjunpaa said, noting she’s registered in the league there. "When they go on the ice, I play with them.”

But that’s not the only league she’s aiming for. Harjunpaa has a tryout with the Muskie hockey team on Oct. 27—apparently the first female to do so in the high school team’s history.

Harjunpaa said some of the female hockey players she’s met here seemed intimidated by the boys’ hockey team. But she seemed quite confident she could hold her own.

“I play right wing," she noted. "I do the dirty work.”

Meanwhile, Harjunpaa said adjusting to life in Rainy River District wasn’t too hard. Much of the landscape is similar to her native Finland, and so is the weather patterns—including the intense cold in winter.

But school here has taken some getting used to.

“Here, you study only four subjects a semester. In Finland, you have different subjects in a day," she said. "They have over an hour here and 40-minute periods in Finland.”

And even the sport of hockey is different on this side of the Atlantic.

“Canadians play hockey a little different way and take it more seriously than the Finnish people,” she explained, noting it was those differences that intrigued her the most.

Harjunpaa will return to Pori, Finland on June 30. And like most exchange students, she plans to take home a lot of pictures, and hopefully a lot of good memories, on her stay here.

And hockey is going to play a large part of those memories.

“I just want to see how people play hockey on the other side of the world,” she remarked.

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