Wednesday, December 23, 2009
On this date in 1997, Jari Kurri became the first European-trained player, and just the 8th one ever to score 600 goals in the NHL.
Kurri began playing for Jokerit Helsinki in the Finnish SM-liiga in 1977-78 and played for three seasons before being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers 69th overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. During his last season in Finland, Kurri scored 39 points in 33 games.
He joined the Oilers for the 1980-81 season, the Oilers second in the NHL, and was soon paired with Wayne Gretzky. During his ten seasons with the Oilers Kurri would never score less than 32 goals in a season and averaged 47.4 per year as well as five consecutive seasons with over 100 points. His best offensive season would come in the 1984-85 season when he would set career highs with 71 goals (in 73 games) and 64 assists for 135 points. The following season he would lead the NHL in goal scoring with 68, the first European to do so.
Kurri would win five Stanley Cups while with the Oilers in 1984, 1985, 1987, when he would score the game winning goal in Game 7, 1988 and 1990.
He remains the only Finnish player to score five goals in a game, which he did on November 19, 1983.
When Kurri's contract with the Oilers expired, he played one season in Italy for HC Milano, scoring 27 goals and 48 assists for 74 points in 30 games. While in Italy, Kurri's rights would be traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and then the Los Angeles Kings, which would allow Kurri to be reunited with Gretzky once more. They would team up to return to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 during Kurri's five seasons in Los Angeles.
He would return to Jokerit during the lockout of 1994-95 and would, along with Teemu Selanne, capture the 1995 European Cup Finals.
The following season would see him play the majority of the season with Los Angeles before being dealt to the New York Rangers and be reunited with former Oilers teammate Mark Messier for 14 games.
1996-97 would see Kurri sign on with the Might Ducks of Anaheim before moving on to the Colorado Avalanche for his final NHL season of 1997-98. It was while in Colorado that Kurri would score his 600th career goal against his former team, the Los Angeles Kings, by redirecting a pass at 3:21 of the first period to open the scoring of a 5-1 Colorado victory. He was only the eighth player in NHL history to reach the 600 goal plateau.
He would finish his career as the highest scoring European-born player in NHL history with 601 goals, 797 assists and 1,398 points. In addition, he would total 106 career playoff goals and 127 assist for an additional 233 points, third only behind Gretzky and Messier.
Internationally, Kurri has appeared for Finland in the 1978 European Junior Championships, the 1979 and 1980 World Juniors, the 1982, 1989, 1991 and 1994 (earning a silver medal) World Championships, the 1981 and 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup, the 1996 World Cup and the 1980 and 1988 Olympics, where he would win a Bronze medal in a 3-2 win over Canada where Kurri would score the first goal of the game and the last goal of his career.
In 2001 he would become the first Finn elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and his #17 has been retired by the Edmonton Oilers, Jokerit Helsinki and the Finnish National Team. In addition, the Most Valuable Player in the SM-liiga playoffs is awarded the Jari Kurri Trophy.
Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1988-89 Edmonton Oilers Jarri Kurri jersey which features the Edmonton Oilers 10th Anniversary patch. This patch is a bit odd since the Oilers were founded in 1972 as one of the original members of the World Hockey Association. This would make 1988-89 the Oilers 16th Anniversary season, but the patch was clearly meant to commemorate the Oilers 10th Anniversary of their entry into the NHL following the demise of the WHA, a league the NHL chooses to pretend never actually existed.
Here is a brief video of Kurri scoring his 600th career NHL goal.
Next up is the Edmonton Oilers retiring Kurri's #17 jersey.