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Jokerit (English: Jokers) is an ice hockey team in the SM-liiga. They play in Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker at the Hartwall Areenamarker. The team has won 6 league championships (1973, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2002).

Team history

Early history

Jokerit would not exist without the debts-incurred ice hockey branch of Töölön Vesa amateur sports club, who were faced with having to discontinue their resource-demanding ice hockey activities in 1967. Master-builder Aimo Mäkinen seized the opportunity to establish a semi-professional sports club of his own, and for the price of half of Vesa's ice hockey debts the new ice hockey club inherited everything, including junior players and the vacant position in second highest Finnish series, Suomi-sarja.

Officially Jokerit were established on October 27, 1967 at their constitutional meeting. The club's sole owner Mäkinen chose to wield sovereign power, becoming in practice also the board and managing director. The insignia, winking jester, was adapted from jokers of various card decks and drawn by graphic designer Jorma Hinkka. Their home venue was Helsinki Ice Hallmarker.

Mäkinen did not intend his new club to loiter in the lower series. Even though dramatic changes in the line-up did not appear directly, only a few players from Töölön Vesa saw prolonged employment: Timo Turunen would be the most distinguished, remaining even today as the club's all-time goal scoring leader. With him, Pentti Hiiros and Timo Kyntölä would form nallipyssyketju ("cap gun line", referring to their lack of height - Hiiros was the tallest at 172 cm) until 1975, when the latter retired.

Promotion to SM-sarja

Promotion to the highest level, SM-sarja, took place two years later. Immediately after the promotion was secured, Mäkinen began an aggressive acquisition of star players. Among them were the national team regulars defenceman Ilpo Koskela with forwards Henry Leppä and Timo Sutinen, whose relationship with the club lasted long.

Other mentionworthy reinforcements, that came later, were forward Jouko Öystilä and defenceman Timo Saari, and finally, head coach Matti Lampainen. In 1969, IIHF had loosened amateur rules by permitting bodychecking anywhere in the rink (old rules allowed bodychecking only in defensive end). SM-sarja underwent a tactical revolution as physical, mean play became a means to success. Lampainen, however, reckoned physical play unsuitable for the line-up at hand (consider nallipyssyketju). He guided the team, with success, towards a play that demanded technique and clever tactics. This became the trademark of Jokerit that stuck all the way to the late 1990s.

Mäkinen also enhanced the club's junior organisation by launching a competition of their own, called Kanada-sarja, with 500 participating junior players, a figure that cumulatively tripled in a few years. Kanada-sarja didn't survive the 1970s, but Jokerit benefitted from it through a steady flow of emerging talent including Jari Kurri, and by gaining a strong popular base in the outer urban zones of Helsinki.

Despite winning Finnish championship silver in 1971 and gold in 1973, Jokerit didn't develop financially profitable for Mäkinen. He started downsizing the team's budget by methodically replacing departing stars with junior players. Success slowly declined and Jokerit had to qualify against relegation several times. With Mäkinen's controversial manner of management added to these, the club turned into a center of turbulence.

Success and financial troubles

When a replacement candidate turned up in 1980, Mäkinen retired from the ownership, though he went on in the club's junior organisation up to the 1990s. New owners, Jokeriklubin Tuki Ry, were a conventional association supervised by its board.

Under new management, the club didn't instantly shake off its wobbliness, but then they peaked for one season. Having signed mainly outcasts of other clubs, they suddenly hit jackpot: Soviet Unionmarker's national team defenceman Nikolai Makarov was transferred to Jokerit. They had a near-perfect season, losing only the 1983 finals extremely narrowly - and bitterly - to local rivals of HIFK.

However, the management ran into unexpected financial problems, and success soon withered. Only a few years later, they had to avert bankruptcy twice, which struck a blow to their credibility, as a mass desertion of the players ensued. The first line was a shambles as wing Risto Kerminen departed and center Jari Lindroos almost did, but though he had signed elsewhere, the contract was illegitimately nullified. Few others, apart from the longtime goaltender Rauli Sohlman, remained. Jokerit faced the imminent relegation in 1987.

In the middle of the bleakest hour of their history, with Jokeriklubin Tuki Ry seeking to discontinue their association, new blood was rushed into Jokerit. In 1988 their 20-year-olds won the Finnish junior championship with several prospective stars: defenceman Waltteri Immonen would be captain of the team 1991-1999; Mika Strömberg the club's all-time best-scoring defenceman; Ari Sulander the main goaltender 1993-1998; forward Keijo Säilynoja a goal scorer and a penalty-shot specialist; and Teemu Selänne the NHL record-breaker.

Now that the club was spiced with such promising, new willing owners turned up to save them. They established Jokeri-Hockey Oy and became the first limited company based sports club in Finland. Kalervo Kummola, who played the leading role assembling the company, sat in its board up to 2002.

The team, reinforced with the junior champions, orchestrated a quick promotion back to the top level, now called SM-liiga. But once again, despite the phenomenal boost in popularity supported by the prominent scorer Selänne and other young star players, the owners ran into severe financial problems, caused by incompetent management and disagreements within the board.

The Harkimo Era

In 1991 an investor withdrew and board member Harry Harkimo got credentials to a double majority of shares. He appointed himself the chairman of the board, discontinued all managerial positions and nominated his wife Leena Harkimo the managing director (who held the task up to her election to the Parliament of Finland in 1999). This proved to be the final stroke of luck the club needed: the disagreements vanished once and for all and Harry Harkimo established himself as an efficient businessman, being able to conduct a rapid recovery of the economy. In a few years, Jokerit were the wealthiest Finnish sports club.

Thus, they were able to reinforce the team with first class talent. Several successful acquisitions were signed, most memorably Otakar Janecky, who manned the first line center for several seasons, becoming the club's all-time best point scorer; Petri Varis, who became the club's best goal scorer of the 1990s; and forward Antti Törmänen. Together with the above-mentioned junior champions they formed a core of a dynasty of thriving times: Jokerit won Finnish championship in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1997, and European Cup in 1995 and 1996, plus Finnish silver once and European bronze once.

Harkimo further converted the club from semi-professionalism towards his ideal of professional sports entertainment, which was unmistakably adopted from NHL. His efforts yielded Jokerit their own home venue Hartwall Areena in 1997 - first such privately owned in Europe. Ownership was reformed into Jokerit HC Oyj, a public limited company. They focused on the new European Hockey League expecting it to evolve into a competition more money-making than SM-Liiga, and sought various other ways to expand. Most of these plans did not meet with success, but the new venue turned out to be a gold-mine for the club's business. Meanwhile Harry Harkimo tried to create an elite team to the British Ice Hockey Superleague, the Newcastle Jesters but the team was not as successful as hoped, so he sold the franchise back to the League.

As they set foot at Hartwall Areena, the club signed several star reinforcements seen to be required to win the two professional leagues and to replace the now slightly aged core. However, despite having sparkling line-ups, their performance fluctuated, ending up winning "only" Finnish bronze in 1998 and silver in 2000, and repeatedly having no success in European Hockey League (which turned out as a major flop in itself).

To the next millennium

In the 2000s, the management have regained what the supporters consider more reasonable an attitude by concentrating back on SM-Liiga, but the line-ups have had a notable turnover rate between seasons - a distinct core has not developed or been preserved.

For the 1999-00 season Jokerit had a good team. The team featured good players like Germanmarker international Jan Benda, Russianmarker Dmitri Kvartalnov, Czechmarker Miroslav Hlinka, longtime Jokerit alumni Petri Varis, Finnish top players Antti-Jussi Niemi, Tom Koivisto and Pasi Nurminen on goal. The team was soon joined by former NHL'ers Tuomas Grönman and the 5 time Stanley Cup champion Esa Tikkanen. The team was strong and reached the finals but lost to TPS.

Jokerit did not have much success on the following although they had players like Jukka Hentunen and Antti Törmänen to strengthen the team.

In 2001-02 The team featured players like Pavel Rosa, Frank Banham and the 1995 world champion Ville Peltonen. With Kari Lehtonen's terrific form between the pipes and the arrival of Vladimir Machulda from SaiPa, Jokerit won their sixth Finnish championship in 2002.

Kari Lehtonen, the starting goaltender for the Atlanta Thrashers (NHL) played for Jokerit in 2001. At 21 years old, he was the youngest goaltender to play in SM-liiga.

The 2002-03 and 03-04 seasons yielded no medals for Jokerit. In the spring of 2003 Jokerit acquired forward Glen Metropolit from the Washington Capitals organization; despite his unimpressive NHL record, Metropolit became scoring leader of Jokerit in both the 2003-04 regular season and playoffs, as well as the 2004-05 regular season. Metropolit became a firm fan favorite, and many were sorry to see him leave the Finnish league after the 2004-05 season. Another important Jokerit acquisition was goalie Tim Thomas from the Boston Bruins organization. Thomas played in every game of the season bar two with a save percentage of 94.59% and a record-breaking 15 shutouts, for which he won the Kultainen kypärä award.

As the 2004-2005 NHL lockout was extended, Jokerit hired Brian Campbell, and Ossi Väänänen returned to his hometown team from the Colorado Avalanche in December. Teemu Selänne officially joined the Jokerit lineup in December, but he spent the spring rehabbing his injured knee and was unable to play any games for the team. With a strong team, Jokerit looked set to win the regular season and take the championship when an inexplicable late-season collapse allowed Kärpät to take and keep the regular season lead. The two teams faced off in the finals, with Jokerit losing three games to one and having to settle for the silver.

After the NHL lockout

When the NHL lockout ended in 2005, many players were lost to NHL teams and to other teams in Europe: Campbell, Väänänen, Selänne, Metropolit, Pasi Häkkinen, Valtteri Filppula and Tomi Mäki. The last departure occurred just one day before regular season play started, when goaltender Tim Thomas signed with the Boston Bruins. Jokerit tried to replace the loss of Thomas with goalkeeper Karl Goehring but Goehring was released soon and replaced by ex-NHL'er Steve Passmore. Passmore was paired mid-season with HIFK 's Tom Askey but none of the three was able to fill the empty spot of Tim Thomas. Jokerit also had players like Eric Beaudoin and Justin Mapletoft but neither of them made a positive impact during the season. The spree of departures, combined with rookie coach Waltteri Immonen's coaching debut, led Jokerit to an abysmal early season, with a win-loss-tie record of 5-11-4 after 20 games. Immonen, a long-time Jokerit player but a rookie head coach, was moved from the job in November and Curt Lindström was hired to salvage the team. Mr. Lindström could not change the course of the team and for the first time in 16 years, Jokerit did not qualify for the play-offs.

The Shedden Era

After their worst season ranking in decades Jokerit acquired the services of HIFK head coach and former NHL'er Doug Shedden. Shedden brought in a key player from HIFK, Kim Hirschovits, who had gained responsibility under Shedden in his former team. The refreshed team also featured Jyrki Louhi from the 2005–06 champions HPK and Juuso Riksman from Ässät, the second placed team of 2006. Jokerit acquired some scoring talent in the form of Tim Stapleton and some NHL-experience as Shedden's former protege from Toronto-era Clarke Wilm moved to Jokerit mid-season. Shedden's first Jokerit season was good as the team returned to the play-offs and infamously defeated the reigning champions HPK in the semi-finals to advance to the finals against Kärpät. Although Jokerit lost to Kärpät in the finals, the 2006–07 season was a good start for Shedden in Jokerit. During the 2007–08 season Jokerit celebrated their 40th anniversary and on October 27 Jokerit retired the jersey of former alumni Jari Kurri. Jokerit strengthened their goaltending department by acquiring former NHL and Finnish national team Goaltender Jussi Markkanen to replace Scott Langkow before the season and added more NHL experience by contracting former Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver Canucks center Tommi Santala after the season had started. During the 2007–2008 SM-Liiga season, Doug Shedden announced that he had been contracted to the Swiss team EV Zug and was leaving Jokerit after the season. After a while, it was announced that Shedden's job as the head coach of the team would be taken over by ex-NHL head coach Glen Hanlon after Shedden's contract was to expire. Shedden's last season as the head coach of Jokerit ended worse than expected. Although Jokerit were predicted to be championship contenders, they lost a 3–1 lead in the series against Espoo Blues and lost the series 3 to 4. Jokerit was dropped to the bronze medal game where they lost to Tappara, thus finishing fourth in SM-liiga for the 2007–08 season. Along with Shedden, Jokerit also lost the services of assistant coach Waltteri Immonen as he followed Shedden to EV Zug.

Glen Hanlon takes over

The former head coach of the Belarus national team and the Washington Capitals, Glen Hanlon, followed Doug Shedden as the head coach for Jokerit at the start of the 2008–09 season. Although fresh from SM-liiga Playoffs, Jokerit announced several signings for the season. Jokerit contracted former Jokerit and Dallas Stars-player Juha Lind, former AHL'ers Janne Lahti along with Tomi Mäki and enforcer and fighter Pasi Nielikäinen. Former Jokerit and Frölunda HC defenseman Tom Koivisto was signed to add some offensive touch to the Jokerit defence and Antti Hulkkonen was signed for his experience. The goalkeeper Juuso Riksman returned to Jokerit after a one-year visit to North America and the AHL, replacing Jussi Markkanen who joined HC CSKA Moscow of the RSL .

The team organization of Jokerit also had some changes after 2007–08 season. The team's general manager Matti Virmanen was moved to work as the director of sports activities for Jokerit, and was replaced as the general manager by former Jokerit-alumni and Finnish international player, Keijo Säilynoja, who started as the GM for Jokerit on June 15, 2008. Jokerit lost their 2008 preseason game against the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins by a 4–1 score. This was the second time Jokerit had faced an NHL-team, the first being the 2003–04 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jokerit has announced that Hanlon won't be coaching the team next year, but a former Jokerit head coach from 1993–1996, Hannu Aravirta, took over again. The season started badly and they were placed last for some time. Team did several changes into the roster like acquiring Fredrik Bremberg and Alex Brooks. On November 25, Aravirta was sacked and replaced by Hannu Jortikka, who had coached the team in 2003-05.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTW = Overtime wins, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Season GP W L T OTW Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
2002-03 56 35 15 9 3 76 154 108 757 2nd Lost bronze medal game
2003-04 56 23 19 14 4 64 131 120 869 7th Lost in 2nd round
2004-05 56 34 15 4 3 113 163 96 743 2nd 2nd (silver medal)
2005-06 56 19 29 4 4 69 149 190 1303 11th Out of playoffs
2006-07 56 32 15 OTW6 OTL3 111 194 144 .... 2nd 2nd (silver medal)


  • Finnish championship 1973, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2002
    • silver 1971, 1983, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2007 and bronze 1998
  • European Cup 1995, 1996
    • bronze 1993
  • Continental Cup 2003
  • Junior Finnish championships:
    • A-juniors (20-year-olds) 1988, 1996, 1999, 2000
      • four times silver
    • B-juniors (18-year-olds) 1976, 1999, 2003, 2008
      • five times silver and six times bronze
    • C-juniors (16-year-olds) 1976, 1977, 1978, 1997, 2000, 2006
      • four times silver and four times bronze

Other awards for the club:
  • Aaro Kivilinnan muistopalkinto (best Finnish club age classes combined, since 1973): 1976, 1996, 1997 (shared), 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003

Personal awards by SM-sarja and SM-liiga:

Other achievements:
  • In the 2004-05 season, Tim Thomas broke the SM-liiga shutout record with 15 shutouts during the regular season.
  • Seven European players in the history of the National Hockey League have scored 1,000 career points; two of these seven, and the only Finns, Jari Kurri and Teemu Selänne, started their pro careers in Jokerit.

Current squad

2009/10 squad

Updated June 30 2009
Number Nationality Player Glovehand Contract Length Birthplace
1 Jani Kautto L 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
33 Mikko Strömberg L 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
34 Juuso Riksman L 2010 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker

Number Nationality Player Left/Right Handed Contract Length Birthplace
4 Antti-Jussi Niemi L 2012 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker
6 Alex Brooks R 2010 Madison, Wisconsinmarker, USAmarker
7 Mikko Kalteva L 2011 Hyvinkäämarker, Finlandmarker
10 Marko Kauppinen L 2012 Mikkelimarker, Finlandmarker
20 Simo Mälkiä R 2010 Lappeenrantamarker, Finlandmarker
50 Tommi Kivistö L 2011 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker
55 Jere Ölander L 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
58 Nico Manelius L 2011 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker
60 Tom Koivisto R 2010 Turkumarker, Finlandmarker
71 Teemu Eronen L 2011 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker

Number Nationality Player Left/Right Handed Position Contract Length Birthplace
12 Esa Pirnes L C 2011 Oulumarker, Finlandmarker
15 Janne Hauhtonen R C 2010 Porimarker, Finlandmarker
18 Semir Ben-Amor L F 2010 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
19 Fredrik Bremberg L F match-by-match Malmömarker, Swedenmarker
21 Markku Tähtinen L C match-by-match Porimarker, Finlandmarker
22 Jani-Petteri Helenius L F 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
25 Jukka Hentunen RW R 2011 Joroinenmarker, Finlandmarker
27 Juha Lind A L LW 2010 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
28 Jani Rita L RW 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
41 Ossi Saarinen L F 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
47 Janne Lahti L F 2010 Riihimäkimarker, Finlandmarker
51 Jan-Mikael Juutilainen L F 2010 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
53 Tomi Pallassalo L F 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
66 Olavi Vauhkonen L F 2011 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
72 Ilmari Pitkänen L F 2011 Viljakkalamarker, Finlandmarker
83 Tomi Mäki L F 2010 Helsinkimarker, Finlandmarker
90 Tony Pulkkinen L F 2011 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker
92 Teemu Pulkkinen R F 2011 Vantaamarker, Finlandmarker

C = Captain, A = Assistant Captain

2009-10 team staff

Coaching Staff
Name Position
Hannu Jortikka Head Coach
Sami Ranta Assistant Coach
Jami Kauppi Assistant Coach

Misc. Staff
Name Position
Lars Lindström Equipment Manager
Timo Lounio Physio
Niko Toivonen Masseur
Peter Åström Medical
Jammu Öunap Medical
Tuomas Brinck Medical

Team captains

Retired numbers

Jokerit NHL alumni

This is a list of current or past NHL players who played junior hockey with the Jokerit organization.

Other notable players

List of head coaches

See also


External links

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