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Raimo Ilmari Helminen (born March 11, 1964, in Tamperemarker, Finlandmarker) is a Finnish former professional ice hockey player. He is often called "Raipe" or "Maestro" by his fans. He is the world record holder for most international games played, as well as for being in the most Olympics.

He has a wife, Leena, and two children, Anssi and Nelli.

Professional career

Early years

Helminen has himself said that he developed most of his skills when he was young and spent all his free time playing in outdoor ice rinks. Before he focused on ice hockey he had also played football.

Helminen started his career in his native town, playing for one of oldest teams in the country, Ilves. After two gold medals in junior leagues, Helminen got to play for Ilves in the SM-liiga (Finland's top ice hockey league) in 1982. His first international success came in 1984 when Finlandmarker won silver in the U20 World Championship tournament in Swedenmarker. Helminen broke the record for most points scored in an Under-20 tournament and was selected for the All-Star team. This attracted the attention of people scouting new talent for the professional teams in the National Hockey League in North America. That spring Helminen also took part in his first Olympic games in Sarajevomarker.

NHL

The following season he was one of the best players for Ilves, being the second highest scorer for his team and third overall in the league. As the centre of the first line, he led Ilves to a league championship victory for the first time in the league's history.

The New York Rangers drafted him in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft as their second pick (2nd round, number 35), and Helminen headed for the NHL in the fall of 1985. He finished his rookie season with an outstanding 40 points in 66 games. The next fall, however, the new team management sold most of their young players and Helminen ended up with the Minnesota North Stars.

Difficulties and Success

The next season proved more difficult, and Helminen ended up playing a lot in the minor leagues. In the fall of 1987 he returned to home soil to play for Ilves again. He proved to be a success and secured a place in the national team for the 1988 Winter Olympics. There he helped his country win their first Olympic medal (silver) in ice hockey.

His performance included 10 points in seven games and assisting two goals in Finlandmarker's surprise 3–0 victory over gold medal hopefuls Canadamarker. The tournament left NHL scouts wondering why this player was not playing in North America. Eventually Helminen got another chance to play in the NHL, this time for the New York Islanders.

Back problems and Sweden

In the spring of 1988 Helminen started having back problems that would hinder his career for the next couple of years. Because of this injury his 1988–89 season for the Islanders was a disappointment—although he played spectacularly for New York's AHL Springfield Indians farm team for a month—and he left the Islanders for Malmömarker IF in Swedenmarker.

Helminen's play in Malmö IF was at times very good and he earned the respect of the fans. However, his back would not heal properly until the summer of 1992 after Malmö had won the Swedish Elitserien (the top ice hockey league in the country). After being Elitserien's first ever foreign scoring winner in 1993 Helminen helped Malmö IF win another championship in 1994.

Late career

In 1996 Helminen returned again to his home town to play for Ilves and quickly became a fan favorite again. In 1998 Ilves won silver medals in the SM-liiga and Helminen was voted the best player of the season. He was also selected for the league's All-Star team in three consecutive years having remained one of the top scorers. Helminen also holds the SM-Liiga record for most penalty minutes in one game with (55PIM), when he first spat towards the referee and after that tried to assault him, first with his stick and then with his fists, verbally abusing the referee all the while. Helminen served as the captain of Ilves from 1999 until the end of his career in 2008 (although he was temporarily stripped of his captaincy during the 2006–07 season after being thrown out during a game, he was reinstated after one game). At 44 years of age, Raimo Helminen was the oldest active player during the SM-liiga 2007–08 season.

Helminen officially retired after the 2007-08 SM-liiga season ended for Ilves, when they were defeated by Kärpät in the Quarter-Finals of the SM-liiga Playoffs.

International play

Helminen played in a few international tournaments throughout the '80s and was on the silver winning team of the 1988 Winter Olympics. This was almost the last international glory Helminen was ever to get as then current National team head coach Pentti Matikainen decided that Helminen's time in the national team was over. After Matikainen was fired and the new head coach, Swedishmarker Curt "Curre" Lindström took over in 1994 Helminen was re-instated to the National Team. In the 1990s Finlandmarker began gaining consistent success in international ice hockey. This included World Championship medals 1994 (silver) and 1995 (gold) and Olympic medals in 1994 (bronze) and 1998 (bronze). Helminen remained a favourite pick in the national team consistently through the decade and played an important role in the national team's successes. Helminen participated in 11 World Championships tournaments between 1985 and 2002. Helminen holds a World Record of most International games. Helminen played a total of 331 times for Finland and scored 52 goals and assisted 155, totaling 207 points.

Helminen playing his last international game for Finland.
His number originally was 14, but he had to change it to 41 when Ilves retired 14 in honour of Lasse Oksanen, a former player of the team. Helminen continued to wear 14 when he played for Team Finland. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, Ilves announced that Helminen's number 41 would also be retired.

The 2002 World Championship Tournament was Helminen's last World Championship tournament callup since Helminen was dropped as the last player from the 2003 World Championship squad by Hannu Aravirta

In February 2008, Helminen returned to the national team for one game, his farewell match. Finland faced the Czech Republic in the LG Hockey Tournament, which is part of the European Hockey Tour. Although the tournament is held in Sweden, the match was played in Tampere, which is Helminen's hometown. Helminen recorded an assist on a goal scored by Tuomas Pihlman four seconds before the end of the game. Finland won the game 6–1.

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1981–82 Ilves Jrs. FIN Jrs. 30 28 31 59 22 4 4 2 6 0
1982–83 Ilves SM-l 31 2 3 5 0 6 0 0 0 2
1982–83 Ilves Jrs. FIN jrs. 13 7 20 27 20
1983–84 Ilves SM-l 37 17 13 30 14 2 0 0 0 2
1983–84 Olympic Team SM-l 1 0 1 1 0
1984–85 Ilves SM-l 36 21 36 57 20 9 2 4 6 10
1985–86 New York Rangers NHL 66 10 30 40 10 2 0 0 0 0
1986–87 New York Rangers NHL 21 2 4 6 2
1986–87 Minnesota North Stars NHL 6 0 1 1 0
1986–87 New Haven Nighthawks AHL 6 0 2 2 0
1987–88 Ilves SM-l 31 20 23 43 42 4 1 1 2 10
1988–89 New York Islanders NHL 24 1 11 12 4
1988–89 Springfield Indians AHL 16 6 11 17 0
1989–90 Malmö IF SWE-2 18 18 19 37 10 11 8 11 19 6
1990–91 Malmö IF SEL 33 12 18 30 14 2 0 1 1 4
1991–92 Malmö IF SEL 40 9 18 27 24 10 1 3 4 4
1992–93 Malmö IF SEL 40 9 33 42 59 6 1 0 1 8
1993–94 Malmö IF SEL 38 20 34 54 26 11 1 7 8 8
1994–95 Malmö IF SEL 35 10 19 29 55 7 3 3 6 4
1995–96 Malmö IF SEL 40 8 19 27 53 5 1 3 4 12
1996–97 Ilves SM-l 49 11 39 50 54 8 1 5 6 2
1997–98 Ilves SM-l 46 12 36 48 42 9 3 5 8 10
1998–99 Ilves SM-l 53 12 38 50 44 4 0 3 3 2
1999–00 Ilves SM-l 51 7 38 45 68 3 1 0 1 12
2000–01 Ilves SM-l 56 9 37 46 28 9 1 6 7 2
2001–02 Ilves SM-l 56 7 34 41 12 3 0 0 0 0
2002–03 Ilves SM-l 53 10 21 31 77
2003–04 Ilves SM-l 56 9 34 43 46 7 1 3 4 2
2004–05 Ilves SM-l 53 7 21 28 45 7 0 1 1 2
2005–06 Ilves SM-l 46 7 18 25 34 4 1 1 2 0
2006–07 Ilves SM-l 43 5 12 17 47 7 0 0 0 12
2007–08 Ilves SM-l 53 5 16 21 53 9 3 2 5 2
SM-Liiga totals 751 161 420 581 628 91 14 31 45 70
NHL totals 111 13 45 58 16 2 0 0 0 0
Elitserien totals 226 68 141 209 231 41 7 17 23 40


International

Year Team Event   GP G A Pts PIM
1984 Finland Oly 6 0 2 2 2
1985 Finland WCh 10 4 5 9 2
1987 Finland CC 5 0 3 3 0
1988 Finland Oly 7 2 8 10 4
1992 Finland Oly 8 1 2 3 0
1994 Finland Oly 8 1 5 6 8
1994 Finland WCh 8 1 5 6 0
1995 Finland WCh 8 1 7 8 2
1996 Finland WCp 3 0 1 1 0
1996 Finland WCh 6 0 4 4 0
1997 Finland WCh 8 0 6 6 0
1998 Finland Oly 6 1 1 2 2
1998 Finland WCh 10 2 9 11 0
1999 Finland WCh 10 1 3 4 2
2000 Finland WCh 9 2 2 4 0
2001 Finland WCh 9 1 5 6 0
2002 Finland Oly 4 0 1 1 0
2002 Finland WCh 9 0 2 2 2
Senior international totals 331 52 155 207 72


Awards



Achievements



References



External links

  • http://www.raipe.fi Official site, in Finnish



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