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Friday November 20, 2009 9:46 pm

Jari Kurri featuring Team Finland

Jari KurriNHL Hall of Famer Jari Kurri is back in the NHL. Sort of. He is attending games in an attempt to evaluate the play of various Finnish skaters. As the general manager of Team Finland, he is responsible for putting together a winning unit to represent his country at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. While Kurri is one of the most successful hockey players of all-time, he certainly has his work cut out for him as GM.

Kurri’s 18 seasons in professional hockey with the NHL and Jokerit in the Finnish SM-liiga has been one of the most successful careers in history. He was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2001, and had his number 17 retired by both the Oilers and Jokerit in 2007. When he retired in 1998, his 601 goals and 1,398 points ranked first among European-born players in the NHL. His 233 playoff points rank third all-time behind former teammates Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. He played the first ten years of his career with Edmonton, followed by Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, Anaheim, and Colorado.

Team Finland does not have a long history of success in the Olympics, but they have been consistent over the last handful of Games. In 1998 in Calgary, they finished in second place and won silver just behind the Soviet Union. In Lillehammer ’94 and Nagano ’98 they won bronze, beating Russia 4-0 then Canada 3-2, respectively. In 2006 in Turin, they again lost the gold medal game, this time falling 3-2 against Sweden. The only times they haven’t medaled since ’88 was in 1992 where they finished seventh and in 2002 where they were sixth.

As a member of the “Big Seven” hockey countries, Team Finland is expected to make an impact in 2010. However, Kurri’s pool of talent isn’t nearly as deep as some of the other hockey powers. While players like Jarkko Ruutu, Saku Koivu, and Olli Jokinen will likely make the team and form the core, there’s a bunch of younger, untested players who can either make or break Team Finland in Vancouver. However, Kurri’s experience makes him one of the best persons to have as general manager, and it’s more likely than not that Finland will show up ready to play.

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