Ice Hockey In Helsinki
Update: Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, much of what you read here no longer holds true. The war is terrible and unacceptable. If you are coming to Finland or Helsinki for the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2022, then you are better off reading our IIHF 2022 World Championships survival guide. (Sadly there is no sauna skybox available for now).
Going to Ice Hockey Games while in Helsinki
Ice hockey is something that Finns excel at. many Finnish professional hockey players are well known internationally, playing in leagues all over. The Finns have won a a few world championships at various levels as well as some medals in the Olympics. If you are into sports, it makes sense to go see a game while in town as they are world class. Whats interesting about Helsinki is that you actually have 2 different options when it comes to leagues you might want to go see.
The Finnish Hockey League
There is the Liiga – the national professional league, which is the most popular sports league in Finland and the place where stars like Teemu Selänne started out. Its a closed professional league where 15 teams compete for the Kanada Malja trophy. The winner is decided in after the play off rounds in the final series where the first team to get 4 wins getting the trophy. At the time of writing the play offs are about to begin.
The local team is IFK, a club with traditions going back over 100 years, with 67 years at top flight level (this in 2017) and they have been a part of the national league from the beginning. IFK has won a total of 7 national championships, with the latest coming in 2011. The club has a swedish speaking culture and is a respected foe among the other teams in the league. Typically IFK fights for the top prize or are at least is in serious contention. This season (2017) IFK is on its way to the play offs with 2 more games to go. IFK plat their home games close to the city center at the Helsinki Ice Hockey Rink.
KHL – The Kontinental Hockey League
The KHL is a multinational professional league which replaced the Russian Super League starting in 2008-2009. The league consists of teams from Russia and 7 other countries. Its widely considered as the 2nd to only the NHL and many of the Russian superstars have moved over from the NHL to play in the Russian lead league. On the 2017 season there are a total of 29 teams who compete for the Gagarin trophy. (Update: No more KHL in Helsinki)
The most controversial team in Finnish sports – Jokerit
Formed in 1967, Helsingin Jokerit has won a total of 6 national championships and 2 European championships. The club’s history is among the most interesting in Finnish hockey. A famous Finnish business man (Harry Harkimo) purchased a major stake in the club in 1991 and he began tranforming the way the club operated. The following year the team won the national championship, the clubs 2nd at the time. In 1992 the clubs biggest star Teemu Selänne left for the NHL and immediately made history.
Despite loosing their biggest star, Jokerit remained succesfful winning multiple championships in the 1990’s. In 1997 the club moved from the Helsinki Ice Hockey Rink, which it had shared with its local rivals IFK, to the brand new state-of-the-art Hartwall Areena. Despite a big budget and a brand new hockey rink the team struggled after the move, only managing to win a single championship since then.
Already a team many of the rival teams fans loved to hate shocked the Finnish ice-hockey community in 2013 by notifying the league the team would be defecting to the Kontinental Hockey League the following season. In their first season in the KHL Jokerit had the grow their player budget significantly, and finished 6th in the league. The Hartwall arena is the most modern arena in Finland and is very accommodating to visitors. Its located in Pasila and easily accessible from the central railway station for example, (1 short stop away). In the 2017 season Jokerit had a disappointing end loosing to TsSKA Moscow ending their season in February.
Update: After a lot of dramatic turns, Jokerit is back in Finnish ice hockey, playing the 2023 season at the second highest level, and alternating between 2 home rinks. While some may smile at the business with the home rinks, the eason opener is sold out…