HELSINKI (Reuters) - It started as a typical election night. But by the time The Groke scored the goal that claimed the lead in the World Cup final, the ice hockey-mad people of Finland had pretty much forgotten about politics.
For the record, the center-right, pro-EU National Coalition Party placed first in the election for the European Parliament with 20.8% of the vote.
But even at their own election watch party at a bar in central Helsinki, its members had switched channels well before the vote count had finished to cheer for the Lions, the national ice hockey team.
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"The Groke scored, let's shout out aloud!" a commentator celebrated during a live election results show on state broadcaster YLE when the lumbering team captain, Marko Anttila, scored the goal that took a 2-1 lead in the third period.
The Lions went on to defeat the heavy favorites Canada 3-1 to claim the cup in Slovakia. The match hero was Anttila, 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) tall, who borrows his nickname from an awkward lump-shaped giant in the Moomin series of Nordic children's books.
"The Groke is the next president!" his teammate Veli-Matti Saavinainen said in an interview after the match. To which the actual President, Sauli Niinisto, replied on Twitter: "Wouldn't make it much worse than this goblin," referring to himself.
Crowds chanted "Groke! Groke!" in the streets through the night. Police said some 10,000 ice hockey fans gathered on a square in central Helsinki to celebrate, some of them splashing half-naked into a fountain in the cold Finnish spring weather of 7 degrees Celcius (45F). By Monday morning, Helsinki's flagship department store Stockmann had sold out of Groke mugs.
On the political front, the night was also a big night for the Green Party, which placed second, with its share of the vote rising 6.7 points to 16%.
"Let's put the puck in the goal!" Ville Niinisto, former Green Party chair and newly-elected member of the European Parliament shouted in his victory speech while the match was still underway.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen)