Thursday, April 1, 2010
It only seems appropriate to feature a club on April Fool's Day named the "Jokers". Founded in 1967 in Helsinki, Finland when Aimo Mäkinen saw the opportunity to establish a semi-professional sports club following the demise of the Töölön Vesa sports club hockey team, Mäkinen paid half of Vesa's hockey related debts and received all the previous club's assets, including their junior players and a spot in the second highest Finnish league, the Suomi-sarja, for his new club which he named "Jokerit", which is Finnish for "Jokers" and whose name and logo were inspired by the joker from a deck of playing cards.
Two years after it's founding, Jokerit would earn promotion to the top level of Finnish hockey, the SM-sarja. Once accomplished, Mäkinen began aggressively adding star players to his roster. With rules changing allowing bodychecking in 1969, hockey in Finland underwent a change to a more physical style, which then coach Matti Lampainen felt was unsuitable for the roster he had at the time. He guided his club toward a more clever and tactical style which paid off with a championship in 1973.
The club would pass through several ownerships during the 1980's and an infusion of young talent at the end of the decade, such as defenseman Waltteri Immonen, who would captain the team from 1991-1999, Mika Strömberg, the club's all-time highest scoring defenseman, Ari Sulander, their main goaltender from 1993-1998 and Teemu Selänne, who would go on to set NHL rookie scoring records and eventually score 600 NHL goals, would return the club quickly to the top level, now called the SM-liiga, after having been relegated in 1987.
With their ownership now settled by 1991, the club became the wealthiest in Finland, which led to a dynasty that captured the Finnish championship in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1997, as well as the European Cup in 1995 and 1996. In addition, they moved into their new home, the Hartwall Areena.
Kurri and Selänne hoist Immomen in celebration of the 1995 European Cup
The club's sixth championship would come in 2002 behind the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen.
When the Jokerit celebrated their 40th anniversary season in 2007-08 they retired the jersey of former star Jari Kurri, who originally played for the team from 1977-80 and again during the NHL lockout of 1994.
In addition to their six Finnish championships, Jokerit have finished second in 1971, 1983, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2007 and won the Continental Cup in 2003.
Jokerit has also left it's mark on the NHL, with the only two Finns out of the nine players in NHL history to have scored 1,000 points, Kurri and Selänne, having started with Jokerit.
Other Jokerit players to have gone onto NHL careers include, Ossi Väänänen, Lehtonen, Sean Bergenheim and Valtteri Filppula.
Today's featured jersey is a Tackla 1994-95 Jokerit Helsinki Teemu Selänne jersey. Selänne returned to Jokerit during the NHL lockout, along with Jari Kurri, and was a part of the 1995 European Cup winning team.
This jersey has the Tackla diamond shapes on the shoulders and the usual European sponsorship logos. The original jerseys were all dye-sublimated, but this replica example was expertly customized with the same and numbers in twill as well as the impressive rendition of the Karjala sponsorship on the back with heats-sealed material to match the font used on the front sublimated logo. The Carrols patch on the front was one of our custom made patches that was then also sewn on to complete the look of this most distinctive jersey.
Our first video of today is footage of Jokerit during the 1992 SM-liiga Finals.
Our second video features rabid Jokerit supporters in footage from 2006.