Helsinki Wolverines primed for opening of Finland’s Maple League season

Finland’s Helsinki Wolverines will host the Seinäjoki Crocodiles on July 30 in the first game of a historic Maple League season.

As the only football league in the world, Finland’s Maple League will kick off a “post coronavirus lockdown” season with six teams. In fact, teams in Finland’s top league have been practicing in pads with full contact since the beginning of June.

Also playing in the first week will be the Helsinki Roosters and the Kuopio Steelers as well as the Wasa Royals who will face the Porvoo Butchers.

The Maple League will play a truncated season with only half the number of regular season games, starting July 30 with Maple Bowl XLI scheduled to be played at Lahti stadium on September 12. Each team will play only five games during the regular season.

These two teams met twice in 2019 splitting the series. Helsinki took the first game, at home, beating the Crocodiles 47-29. Seinäjoki got their revenge though late in the year, whipping the Wolverines 41-13.

The Wolverines finished the 2019 season with a 7-5 record and reached the semifinals where they were knocked off by the Kuopio Steelers.

This year’s edition of the Helsinki Wolverines under new head coach Michael Mattingly features quarterback Chris Forcier who arrived in Finland from the Ingolstadt Dukes in Germany. Mattingly is confident about the talents of his new quarterback:

“We believe Chris is the best quarterback in the league this season. His ability to be a true dual threat quarterback and his experience will cause problems for defenses this season. He has been a true leader on and off the field so far.”

Forcier will have an impressive receiving corps to throw to. Helsinki has managed to snag arguably the best two Finnish receivers in Sebastian Sagne and Micky Kyei who along with Maple League veterans Ngo Phung Nguyen and Cedric Johnson will give opposing secondaries headaches.

“We think that we have the best wide receiving corps in any league that will play this season. Our offense will be dynamic and you’ll see lots of guys touching the football.”

On the defensive side of the ball the Wolverines have been reinforced by returning college player defensive end Ville Valasti (Eastern Michigan) who brings four years of college experience and leadership. The secondary has been shored up with the addition of cornerback Elmeri Laalo who Mattingly and defensive coordinator Jan Vilkko have high hopes for:

“Having Ville return to the Maple League and the Wolverines is big for us. With four years of US college experience he brings great knowledge and skill to the front seven and has been a tremendous leader. Elmeri is one of the hidden gems in the maple league. At almost 6’4″ he is a long, rangy and physical corner who will cause opposing wideouts problems. Being a U19 national team player last year and standout at that, he also has the potential to earn a US scholarship in the coming year and if not we see no reason that he is not the best defensive back in Finland or the best defensive player in all of Finland in the near future.”

The Wolverines coaching staff has depth and experience, giving Mattingly a sense of calm and confidence going into this shortened season:

“We don’t have the biggest staff here with the Wolverines but the coaches we have are experienced and have won championships in the past. Coach Kari Leivoja has been a nice side kick for me on offense and teaching me how things have been here in the past and helping me coordinate the playbook.

“On the defensive side of the ball, our GM/AD and Defensive Coordinator Jan Vilkko has done a tremendous job with the cards that have been dealt and is the reason I am now here. He has great knowledge from a brief stint in the States and other places in Europe including the Maple League of course. Coach Aki Rinne is still the leader of the defensive line as he has been in the past for the Wolverines and is doing a great job.”

Wolverines schedule

July 30: Seinäjoki Crocodiles @Helsinki Wolverines

August 7: Wasa Royals @Helsinki Wolverines

August 15: Helsinki Wolverines @Kuopio Steelers

August 20: Helsinki Wolverines @Porvoon Butchers

August 27: Helsinki Roosters @Helsinki Wolverines

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