Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Born on this date in 1960 in Helsinki, Finland, Jari Kurri began his professional career in 1977-78 at the age of 17 with Jokerit of the Finnish SM-liiga. Later that same season saw the beginning of his long and illustrious international career by being named the Best Forward at the 1978 European Junior Hockey Championships after scoring 6 goals and 8 points in 4 games.
His next international appearance was at the 1979 World Junior Championships where he scored 5 points in 6 games.
1980 was a busy one for Kurri on the Finland National Team, as he first competed in a second World Juniors, where he tied for the tournament scoring lead with 11 points in 5 games as Finland captured the silver medal on home ice in Helsinki.
Kurri then played 8 games with the national team in preparation for the Olympics, which commenced just five weeks after the World Juniors. Finland's loss to the United States on the final day, after leading going into the third period, cost them a medal as they placed fourth, a single point behind Sweden.
After completing the 1979-80 season with Jokerit, Kurri then joined the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup dynasty. The next time Kurri suited up for Finland was at the 1981 Canada Cup prior to the upcoming NHL season. The 1981-82 season would be the final one prior to the freight train that was the 1980's Oilers getting up to full speed, and Edmonton's first round exit of the 1982 playoffs gave him one final opportunity for the time being to participate in the World Championships where he scored 7 points in 7 games.
With the Oilers going to the Stanley Cup Finals for the next five seasons, Kurri's appearances in the World Championships were now on hiatus. It would be five six years before he would wear Finland's blue and white again, this time for the 1987 edition of the Canada Cup.
After a fourth Stanley Cup with Edmonton in 1988, an early playoff exit in 1989 allowed Kurri to once again skate in the spring's annual World Championships, where he impressed with 9 points in 7 games.
The Oilers rebounded in 1990 to win the 5th Stanley Cup of Kurri's carer prior to his taking a year away from the NHL to play hockey in Italy for a season, where he had a clause in his contract which made certain he was available for the 1991 World Championships hosted by Finland. Playing in front of his fellow countrymen, Kurri was in top form, scoring 6 goals and 6 assists in 10 games.
His NHL rights were traded from Edmonton to Philadelphia and later the same day to Los Angeles in May of 1991, but before joining the Kings and being reunited with Oilers teammate Wayne Gretzky, Kurri captained Finland at the 1991 Canada Cup tournament.
Up to this point, Finland had been admittedly a mid-pack team, never having won a medal at the World Championships and only one at the Olympics, that coming in 1988 with a silver. Things began to change in 1992 when Finland earned their first World Championship medal, a silver, although Kurri was not present.
He was present however, when Finland returned to the medal podium in 1994, aided by Kurri's 10 points in 8 games, as they came up just short of the gold by losing in the final 2-1 after a shootout in his final World Championship appearance.
His next opportunity to skate for Finland came in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the successor to the Canada Cup.
Finally, in 1998 when the NHL put it's season on hold to allow it's players to compete, Kurri made only his second Olympics, 18 years after his first, which concluded with a 3-2 win over Canada to earn the Finns a bronze medal, the third medal of his long international career.
His playing days came to an end following the conclusion of the 1997-98 NHL season with Kurri the highest scoring European-born player in NHL history with over 600 goals to his credit. His number 17 was retired by both the Oilers and the Finland National Team. He was also inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000 and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001, the first Finn ever inducted.
Kurri is currently the general manager of the Finland National Team, who just won their second World Championship in their history this past Sunday.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991 Finland National Team Jari Kurri jersey as worn in the 1991 World Cup. This jersey was produced by Tackla out of Finland and features a short-lived cartoonish lion's head logo which was quickly replaced by a new shield-style logo which remains in use today.
Today's video selection is highlights of Finland at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, which includes Kurri scoring a goal on Canada's Patrick Roy.