Jokerit (English: Jokers) is an ice hockey team in the SM-liiga. They play in Helsinki, Finland at the Hartwall Areena. 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 Hall.

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 Union'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 German international Jan Benda, Russian Dmitri Kvartalnov, Czech 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 current Goalie 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 neither of the three was able to fill the empty spot of Tim Thomas. Jokerit also had players like Eric Beaudoin and Justin Mapletoft but either of them made good 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 rookie head coach, was moved from the job in November and Curt Lindström hired to salvage the team. Mr. Lindström couldn't change the course of the team and for the first time in 16 years Jokerit didn't qualify for the play-offs.

The Shedden Era

After their worst season ranking in decades Jokerit acquired services of HIFK head coach and former NHL'er Doug Shedden. Shedden brought in HIFK key player Kim Hirschovits who had gained responsibility under Shedden in HIFK. The refreshed team also featured Jyrki Louhi from 2005-06 seasons champions HPK and Juuso Riksman from Ässät, the second placed team of 2006. Jokerit acquired some scoring talent in 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 Play Offs and infamously defeated the reigning champions HPK in the Semifinals 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 celerated their 40th anniversary and on October 27 Jokerit retired the jersey of former Jokerit 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 Switzerland and is leaving Jokerit after the ongoing season. Shedden will be joining EV Zug. After a while, it was announced that Shedden's job as the Head Coach of the team will be taken over by ex-NHL Head Coach Glen Hanlon after Shedden's contract expires after 2007-08 SM-liiga Playoffs. Shedden's last season as Head Coach of Jokerit ended a bit worst than excpected. 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 Bronze medal game where they lost to Tappara thus finishing fourth in SM-liiga for 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

Belarus National team Head Coach and former Washington Capitals Head Coach Glen Hanlon followed Doug Shedden as the Head Coach for Jokerit and will start on his role in 2008-09 Season. Although fresh from SM-liiga Playoffs, Jokerit has announced several signings for the coming season. Jokerit have 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 defenseman Tom Koivisto will add some offensive touch to Jokerit defence and Antti Hulkkonen will give some experience. Goalkeeping department will have Juuso Riksman, who is returning from North America and AHL to Jokerit after one year visit on the side of the Atlantic Ocean, to replace Jussi Markkanen who is joining HC CSKA Moscow of the RSL .

Jokerit team organization also had some changes after 2007/08 season. Team's General Manager Matti Virmanen was moved to work as the Director of Sports Activities for Jokerit, and was replaced as General Manager by former Jokerit-alumni and Finnish International player, Keijo Säilynoja, who started as the GM for Jokerit in 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 has faced an NHL-team, the first being the 2003/04 game against Toronto Maple Leafs

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

2008/09 Squad

Updated August 10 2008

Number Nationality

Player Glovehand Contract Length Birthplace
34 Juuso Riksman L 2010 Helsinki, Finland
35 Joonas Hallikainen L 2009 Helsinki, Finland

Number Nationality

Player Left/Right Handed Contract Length Birthplace
3 Mikko Jokela A R 2009 Lappeenranta, Finland
4 Antti Hulkkonen L 2009 Liperi, Finland
6 Mikko Kuparinen L 2010 Kerava, Finland
7 Mikko Kalteva L 2009 Hyvinkää, Finland
9 Vesa Kulmala L 2009 Vantaa, Finland
10 Marko Kauppinen L 2009 Mikkeli, Finland
14 Sami Helenius L 2010 Hyvinkää, Finland
40 Heikki Hyvönen R 2009 Espoo, Finland
55 Jere Ölander L Juniors Helsinki, Finland
58 Nico Manelius L Juniors Vantaa, Finland
60 Tom Koivisto R 2010 Turku, Finland

Number Nationality

Player Left/Right Handed Position Contract Length Birthplace
11 Tomek Valtonen L W 2011 Piotrkow, Poland
15 Janne Hauhtonen R C 2010 Pori, Finland
16 Tobias Salmelainen L W 2009 Espoo, Finland
19 Jyrki Louhi L LW 2009 Nurmo, Finland
20 Timo Rinne L F 2009 Lahti, Finland
23 Petri Varis C L RW 2009 Varkaus, Finland
26 Joey Tenute L C 2009 Hamilton, ONT, Canada
27 Juha Lind A L LW 2010 Helsinki, Finland
28 Jani Rita L RW 2009 Helsinki, Finland
29 Kalle Kerman L LW 2009 Kuopio, Finland
39 Jiri Veistola R F 2009 Vantaa, Finland
41 Ossi Saarinen L F 2009 Helsinki, Finland
42 Kim Strömberg L LW 2009 Helsinki, Finland
47 Janne Lahti L F 2010 Riihimäki, Finland
51 Jan-Mikael Juutilainen L F 2010 Helsinki, Finland
53 Tomi Pallassalo L F Juniors Helsinki, Finland
66 Olavi Vauhkonen L F Juniors Helsinki, Finland
72 Ilmari Pitkänen L F Juniors Viljakkala, Finland
74 Pasi Nielikäinen L F 2009 Oulainen, Finland
83 Tomi Mäki L F 2010 Helsinki, Finland
90 Tony Pulkkinen L F Juniors Vantaa, Finland
93 Teemu Pulkkinen R F Juniors Vantaa, Finland

C = Captain, A = Assistant Captain

Team Staff 2008-09

Coaching Staff
Name Position
Glen Hanlon Head Coach

Ismo Lehkonen Assistant Coach

Jarmo Kauppi GK Coach/Team Manager

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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