Thursday, May 22, 2014
Born on this date in 1975, Janne Niinimaa played junior hockey in the Kärpät Oulu system in Finland from 1990 to 1993, which included games with the their junior club as well as their senior club, which was playing in the second division of Finnish hockey at the time. He also participated internationally at the 1992 World Junior Tournament and European Junior Tournament, where he was particularly effective offensively, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 6 games as a defenseman at just 16 years of age. He would also return to the European Juniors for a second time in 1993.
Following the 1992-93 season, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, but remained in Finland for several more seasons, only now having moved to the famed Jokerit Helsinki organization. He again divided his time between the junior and senior clubs, playing 10 games with the juniors and 45 games with the senior team, only this time in the top level SM-liiga where Jokerit would go on to win the league championship.
Jokerit would finish with the best regular season record in 1994-95, but wind up as runner's up in the playoffs before once again taking the playoff championship in 1996, a season in which Niinimaa would score a new personal best of 20 points in 49 games.
During his three seasons with Jokerit, Niinimaa would also compete in his second and third World Junior Tournaments in 1994 and 1995. He would also make his World Championships debut later in 1995, taking part in a memorable first world title for the Finns, who defeated rivals Sweden in Sweden to claim the title and set off a wild celebration back at home.
In 1996, he would again skate in the World Championships and was also a member of the Finnish team at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in the fall of 1996, just prior to making his NHL debut with the Flyers.
His first season in Philadelphia would see him contribute solid offensive numbers, registering 40 assists and 44 points in 77 games while posting a +12 rating. He would immediately get a healthy dose of playoff experience, as the Flyers would make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in his rookie season in the NHL, as he continued to impress with 13 points in 19 games.
He played a second season with the Flyers, appearing in 66 games until being dealt at the trade deadline to the Edmonton Oilers late in the 1997-98 season. He would eclipse his 44 points from the year before with a combined 45 points between the two clubs. Also during the season, his international resume would grow with his first Olympic experience, skating for the Finns in Nagano, Japan, the first Olympics to feature a full slate of NHL players, where Finland returned home with the bronze medal.
Niinimaa would play five more seasons for the Oilers, which included two additional 40 point seasons, setting a career high with 46 in 2000-01, third on the club and aided by the only double-digit goal total of his career with 12. His season would be rewarded by being named to the NHL All-Star Game.
His time with the Oilers also included three additional international appearances, the 2000 World Championships followed by a second Olympics as well as his fourth World Championships, both in 2002.
Late in the 2002-03 season, Niinimaa was dealt by the Oilers to the New York Islanders for the final 13 games of the season. With the Islanders a quick exit from the playoffs, Niinimaa was available for duty at the World Championships once more.
Back on Long Island, Niinimaa played in all 82 games for the Islanders, who once again made an early playoff exit, allowing Niinimaa to appear in his third consecutive World Championships.
Prior to the start of the 2004-05 season, he once more competed in the World Cup of Hockey for Finland.
At the conclusion of the tournament, the NHL lockout began, which cost the NHL a full season of play. Like many other NHLers, Niinimaa looked to Europe to continue stay active. He divided his season with 10 games with the Malmo Redhawks in Sweden's Elitserien and 26 games back where he began with Kärpät Oulu, who would capture the SM-liiga championship, the third of Niinimaa's career.
With the NHL labor issues resolved, he returned to the Islanders for the start of the 2005-06 season, but halfway through the year he was traded to the Dallas Stars, with whom he played 22 games. Prior to the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Dallas sent Niinimaa across the border once again, this time to the Montreal Canadiens, where he would finish his NHL career with 41 games.
He opted to continue his career in Europe from 2007-08, first with HC Davos in Switzerland, where he showed his talent with 37 points in 48 games. 2008-09 it was on to the SCL Tigers in Langnau, also in Switzerland. Following the season he played in his first World Championships for Finland in four years.
He then returned to Sweden playing with HV 71 in 2009-10, winning another championship.
He then joined Luleå HF in 2010-11 prior to returning to Switzerland this past season, when he joined the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers for the 2011-12 season.
Niinimaa's career NHL totals were 741 games played with 54 goals and 265 assists for 319 points while posting a +43 rating. He has also played 162 top level games in Finland, 101 in Sweden and an additional 68 in Switzerland before wrapping up his career with 7 games in the Swedish second division in 2012-13.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Edmonton Oilers Janne Niinimaa jersey. This Oilers third jersey was designed by team part owner Todd McFarlane, who created a new logo full of symbolism, such as the five rivets in the gear representing the five Stanley Cups won by the Oilers, while the ten cogs in the gear representing the team's captains.
Unusual aspects of the jersey included the lack of any copper or red from the then current team's color palette, making for a very colorless design, the futuristic (and not overly legible) "Star Trek" font for the names on the back and matching numbers. Also odd was the choice of a throwback style lace-up collar with an other wise futuristic design.
A polarizing design among fans, this style was used from 2001-02 through 2006-07 until being a victim of the arrival of the new Reebok Edge jerseys, which forced teams to choose only two jerseys going forward.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Finland National Team Janne Niinimaa jersey. From a high point in international jersey design, a few of the "waving flag" styles were introduced in time for the 1996 World Championships and were then rolled out for all teams for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. They continued to be worn during the 1997 World Championships before being phased out for the 1998 Olympic Games.
Photos courtesy of Classic Auctions
Bonus repulsive jersey: Today's bonus repulsive jersey is a 2005-06 Dallas Stars Janne Niinimaa jersey. While the Oilers alternate jersey was loved by some and disked by others, the Dallas Stars "Mooterus" jersey was derided nearly universally by everyone, including Stars team owner Tom Hicks, who rejoiced on the occasion of the jerseys final game, claiming "Good riddance. The funny thing is that you can't find anyone around here who will take credit for designing it. Nobody's left."
Aside from the unexplainable appearance of red in the jerseys, which was in no way a Dallas Stars color at any time in their history, the overly busy main crest, which was supposed to convey a bull's head as mapped out by a constellation with the addition of a shooting star, instead resembled the female reproductive system, leading to it's derisive nickname.
The jersey was worn for the absolute minimum of 23 league mandated games over the course of it's two seasons of use (15 in 2003-04 and 8 in 2005-06) and discontinued when the Stars would not commit to the minimum of eight games for what would have been it's third season.
Um, someone's not a fan of Niinimaa, and went to a lot of trouble to collect his "career highlights" in this video.