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Tuukka's Baby Could Make Summer Splash In Stanley Cup

When Tuukka Rask was born in Savonlinna, Finland, on March 10, 1987, moms throughout that Scandinavian nation were prepared each baby's arrival courtesy of a Baby Box they received from the Finnish government.

It's a tradition that began in 1938 and continues, stronger than ever, to this day.

The contents of the Baby Box have evolved and shifted since they were first distributed 76 years ago. But, in general, they contain a variety of clothing, bodysuits, outdoor-gear, personal care products, Onesies, hats, socks, scissors, bra pads and condoms for mom and dad, bedding and a small mattress.

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It is within a similar box and on a like mattress where young Tuukka likely took his first naps at home. This Baby Box tradition is carried across all strata of Finnish society. Today, parents are offered a choice of the box or a cash payment from the country's national health care service, but nearly all choose the box. To get these boxes, expectant mothers have to undergo pre-natal care via the government's social services network. The state considers that a win-win.

Baby Box
Finnish Baby Box With A Finnish Baby


The boxes have become an immense source of national pride and have grown to bind generations. A story about them on the BBC Magazine website last year was trending for real across the internet in Europe and has helped to spread the trend throughout the world.

[We make it a policy to avoid overt partisan commentary. The use of the Baby Box here is as a storytelling device only. No political endorsement is made or implied.]

Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge [also known as Will and Kate] got one as a gift from the Finnish government prior to the birth of their son, George.

Rask has been on the cusp of Boston Sports Royalty for the past two seasons. His shot at another crown continues, for the first time as a father, Tuesday night in Montreal.

Rask and his girlfriend, Jasmiina Nikkila, welcomed their first child, a baby girl. sometime either late Sunday or early Monday. While Rask and Nikkila won't qualify for a Baby Box since their child was born in outside Finland, there's a good chance family members or friends have already had one shipped from home. The custom is that strong.

After Game 1 against Montreal, Rask may have wished he could crawl back into his Baby Box after allowing a double-overtime goal to P.K. Subban. That goal triggered tens of racist Tweets from 2013 and 2014. some that even came from Bruins fans.

�When you suck, you suck. That�s it. What can I say? It�s the playoffs,� Rask succinctly said after Game 1.

The baby was originally due to arrive on Friday. And, as ESPN Boston reported, Rask was practicing at Ristuccia Arena with a Massachusetts State trooper watching, presumably at the ready to provide escort to the hospital if the child arrived on time.

As many of us know from first-hand experience as moms or dads, baby due dates, especially for a first-born, are about as accurate as the predictions offered before each one of these series. We may get the outcome right, but it's usually off by a couple of days one way or another.

Friday came and went without the arrival of little Ella, or Sofia, or perhaps Emma. Those were the three most-popular female baby names in Finland at last check.

Rask, meanwhile, very much did not suck on Saturday against Montreal. The Bruins were initially frustrated by Carey Price. Far worse, they took far too much Canadien bait, yielding penalties and a pair of two Montreal power-play goals. A lapse into foolishness at the end of the second period and into start of the third nearly proved fatal. Boston rode four goals over a 7:58 span to thwart a 3-1 deficit and score a 5-3 victory. Rask was tested but not fully pressed. He stopped 25 of 28 shots. Far more importantly, Rask beat the Canadiens for the first time in Boston in 10 tries [1-6-3].

Perhaps Nikkila was sharing some of that stress, too, because her baby arrived less than 36 hours after Boston's victory. It was not known if Rask would have played Saturday if the baby decided to arrive around game time. But the Bruins were prepared to have a plane on stand-by had the team left for Montreal before the little girl was born. The plan was for Rask to leave the team when the time came and be with Nikkila for the birth, with Chad Johnson playing goal for Boston.

Once upon a time, there was a real debate among fans and media types about whether or not athletes should leave their teams to be with their wives or significant others when their children were born. Sentiment used to weigh on the side of those who believed "he's being paid to work, not to be there and hold his wife's/girlfriend's/Baby Mama's hand."

But in 2014, the Bruins would have been castigated without mercy had they not made special arrangements for Rask to quickly escape Montreal and return to Boston to be with Nikkila for the birth of their child.

My view on this subject is simple. If the father was around when the child was conceived, he should be there when it's being born, unless extreme circumstances dictate otherwise. However, if I was making $3.5 million a year to play hockey, my wife would have told me to get the hell out of the room and go back to work during her 24 hours of labor before our son was born. And I would have been able to hear her cursing me all the way from Waterbury, Conn., to Vancouver.

The best rule of thumb in all these situations is this: "Whatever the mother-to-be says, goes."

The Old School in me would never condemn anyone making thousands or millions of dollars who opted to stay with his team because of their contractual obligation. After all, it is those thousands or millions that will - at least in theory - support the child and perhaps provide it with means and a life many of us can only imagine.

An ESPN SportsNation poll on this subject was running about 80-20 in favor those who would not condemn Rask for missing the a playoff game to be present for the birth of his child.

The sea-change in this discussion came 15 years ago at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C. The tournament returns there next month. Phil Mickelson's wife, Amy, was expecting their first child but Lefty was hacking away at the U.S. Open. Mickelson's caddie had a beeper, [Yes, kids, they had beepers back then] which was to go off as soon Amy went into labor. Mickelson had vowed to leave the course immediately and head to Arizona to be at her side, regardless of where he stood on the leaderboard.

"I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Mickelson said at the time. "The U.S. Open is played every year. If that beeper goes off, I�m out of here."

On Saturday, Amy's labor began, but she was able to delay the process due to medication. Meanwhile, Phil was battling the late Payne Stewart shot for shot on Sunday. They arrived at the 18th hole on Father's Day with Mickelson even and Stewart at 1-under. Phil fell short 20-foot putt that would have forced a playoff before Stewart won his final major with an easy 15-footer.

As the Pinehurst crowd roared, Stewart hugged a dejected Mickelson and told him: "There's nothing like being a father!"

"I just wasn't going to hand the trophy over to him," said Stewart at the time. "Phil is going to have an opportunity to win again. I might be on the short list."

No one had any idea how short that list would be.

Amanda Mickelson was born the next day. Stewart, 42, died four months later when the private plane he was on ran out of oxygen and eventually crashed. From that point forward, when the subject of athletes being there for the birth of their children came up, the names Mickelson and Stewart were often mentioned.

Being there for their child's birth has since become a no-brainer for many dads, who happen to be pro athletes in the middle of the playoffs.

There's another baby-related custom Rask and the mother of his child could enjoy later this summer. It has nothing to do with boxes or golf.

It involves the Stanley Cup. In 1996, Sylvain Lefebvre's infant daughter Alexzandra was baptized in the Stanley Cup after the Colorado Avalanche won their first NHL championship. When the Cup visited Sweden in 2008, Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom also allowed his cousin to use the Cup for a baptismal font.

Rask's latest postseason baptism by puckage resumes tonight at Bell Centre. He and the Bruins stand 11 victories away from winning the Stanley Cup. Should that happen, Tuukka would get his day alone with sport's most venerable trophy, perhaps home in Finland. A long summer's day near the Arctic Circle. Perfect timing for Rask and Nikkila to christen their child, should they choose to do so.

That's one splash millions of Bruins fans can't wait to see.

The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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