Saturday, March 3, 2012
On this date in 2002, Teppo Numminen of the Phoenix Coyotes became the first Finnish player to appear in 1,000 NHL games in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also became the first player to play in 1,000 games in Coyotes franchise history.
Numminen, a defenseman, was drafted 29th overall by the Winnipeg Jets while playing for Tappara in Tampere, Finland in the SM-liiga.
He came to North America to play with the Jets in 1988-89, appearing in 69 games and registering 15 points. Over the course of the next three seasons, Numminen would appear in 239 out of a possible 240 games, establishing his reputation as a reliable and durable player.
He would play four more seasons in Winnipeg, which included a career high with 54 points in 1995-96 from 11 goals and 43 assists, never playing less than 57 games aside from the strike shortened season of 1994-95 before the Jets would relocate to Phoenix.
The desert air seemed to be good for Numminen's health, as he would go on a consecutive games streak, which dated back to December 15, 1995 in Winnipeg, that would eventually see him hold the longest active streak for games played in the NHL. After playing 74 games in the Jets final season in Winnipeg, he would play every game of the Coyotes first three seasons in Phoenix., which included the second 50 point season of his career with 51 in 1997-98.
While the consecutive games streak would come to an end in 1999-2000, the next four seasons would see him play between 72 and 79 games per season, which included his 1,000th game for the franchise on this date in 2002. He was named captain of the Coyotes before the 2001-02 season, a position he would hold for two seasons.
After fifteen seasons with the Jets/Coyotes franchise, Numminen was dealt to the Dallas Stars for the 2003-04 season. He sat out the lockout year of 2004-05 and resumed his NHL career by signing with the Buffalo Sabres for two more 70+ game seasons. During the 2006-07 season, Numminen would play in his 1252nd game, setting a record for the most games by a European-trained player, passing Jari Kurri.
His first two years in Buffalo afforded Numminen the first two extensive playoff experiences of his career, as the Sabres would make it to the Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007. His 28 playoff games those two years stand out when compared to the fact the Jets or Coyotes never made it past the first round in nine previous tries of Numminen's career.
Numminen required heart surgery before the start of the 2007-08 season and returned to play in the Sabres final game of the season. His last season in the NHL, 2008-09, saw Numminen play 57 games for the Sabres. He would finish with 117 goals and 520 assists for 637 points in 1372 games played, a record for a European trained player at the time and still the most by a Finn. His 1,098 games were a franchise record for the Coyotes.
His #27 was retired by the Coyotes in 2010 and joined Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk and Thomas Steen as members of the Coyotes Ring of Honor.
Prior to coming to North America, Numminen competed for Finland in the World Championships and the Canada Cup in 1987 prior to competing in the World Junior Championships!
In all, Numminen would compete for Finland in the World Championships six times, earning a silver medal in 1994, the Canada Cup once, the World Cup of Hockey twice and in four Olympics, winning bronze in 1998 and silver in 1988 and 2006.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Phoenix Coyotes Teppo Numminen jersey as worn during his 1,000th NHL game on this date in 2002, becoming the first Finnish player to reach 1,000 NHL games.
The Coyotes wore this style jersey from their first season in Phoenix in 1996-97 through the 2002-03 season before undergoing a radical identity re-branding that coincided with their move into their new arena. This style jersey was always considered quite unusual and had a very polarizing effect, with the fans either loving the uniqueness or hating it for how busy and odd they considered it to be.
In today's video section, Teppo Numminen's jersey #27 is retired by the Coyotes in 2010 and he is inducted into the club's ring of honor.
Next, an interview with Numminen just prior to his jersey retirement.
Finally, a tribute to Numminen, which also includes footage of him from his playing days in Finland.