Hockey Hall of Fame Finland gathers information as part of many of our projects. On this page, we publish our research articles and texts related to our exhibition themes.

Currently the articles on this page are about Ilves team’s history. You can find more about ice hockey history from the Finnish Society of Ice Hockey History SJHS (the web page is in Finnish).

Ilves 90

Ilves may not the oldest sports club in Finland nor is it the most succesful in men’s premiere stage hockey. But it has proven itself to be the country’s most significant sports club.

Ilves was founded on the initiative of Niilo Tammisalo on the 10th April 1931, which makes it a couple years younger than the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. In 1929, two of the current Elite League teams, HIFK from Helsinki and TPS from Turku, participated in the establishment of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. HIFK was founded in 1897 and TPS in 1922, and therefore Ilves is not the oldest Elite League team. The Finnish Ice Hockey Association was founded by 17 sports clubs; Pyrintö and TaPa, both from Tampere,being among these 17. Most of these clubs are still in operation today, with the exception of a select few. Therefore, Ilves is not among the oldest ice hockey teams in Finland.

Despite not being among the oldest teams, Ilves has played in the highest consecutive number of seasons in the Finnish ice hockey championships.

Right after the founding of Ilves, they took part in the Finnish championship cup in the season 1931–32. They were leading the initiative, when the series for Finnish championship began in 1933–34 with four teams attending.

Ilves has played on the premiere stage ever since, excluding one season. This ”black year” occurred in the mid-1950’s, when Ilves played one season in the first division. TPS as well as HIFK entered the Finnish Championship series later and they have also played in the first division for a short while. Therefore Ilves has played continuosly for the Finnish championship longer than any other team.

In this time, they have the Finnish championship a total of 16 times, even winning three times in a row in three different decades: the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. The late 1950’s and the whole following decade were phenomenal for Ilves as they won six Finnish championships and nine other medals. The current Elite League was established in 1975–76 and Ilves has consistently taken part. In addition to Ilves, only three clubs can claim this accomplishment: the previously mentioned HIFK and TPS and also Tappara, the local derby rival of Ilves.

On the other hand, Ilves’ seasons during the Elite League have not proven to be so glorious. So far Ilves has won the title once in 1985 and additionally two silver and three broze medals. Due to this weak streak especially, Ilves has lost it place as the most succesful ice hockey club on the men’s premiere stage. The beloved local enemy TBK/Tappara has overtaken first place.

Ilves has never been the oldest ice hockey club in Finland nor the oldest one in Tampere. They are not even the most successful anymore. Nevertheless, they claim the title of the most significant Finnish ice hockey club. Thanks to Ilves, Tampere became the number one ice hockey city and sparked the beginning of Finland’s elevation towards the elite of international ice hockey. The winter lasts a few weeks longer in the inland than in the coastal areas, but that that can not be seen as the reason behind Tampere’s rise over Turku and Helsinki. The real reason is that ice hockey was first taken seriously in Tampere and especially in Ilves.

Written by Hannu Kauhala, 2021

Translated by Mika Vehmas

Ilves won its first – and for the time being, only – Finnish Elite League championship after a series of dramatic events in the spring of 1985. The following summer was no less dramatic as the core players behind the success moved to the NHL.

The starting layout already was promising. At the time, the Finnish Elite League had 10 teams: 4 of which would qualify for the play-offs. TPS had won the regular season followed by Kärpät, Ilves and Ässät. In the semi-finals TPS lost the first two games to Ässät, but was able to win the series with three consecutive victories. Ilves proceeded to the finals by defeating Kärpät 3 victories to 1.

In the finals, TPS seemed to be unbeatable. They won the first home game 3–2 and the second game in Tampere resulted in a landslide victory, with a score of 6–1. This meant that TPS was just one victory away from the Finnish championship.

In the third game, Ilves, led by head coach Seppo Hiitelä, had their backs against the wall. TPS was already preparing for the championship celebrations, when Ilves struck back and crushed TPS 8–1.

Ilves had the home field advantage, as the fourth game was played in the legendary Hakametsä arena. TPS took the lead 2–1. Ilves tied the game with less than ten minutes left. With overtime seeming inevitable, Risto Jalo, center of Ilves’ first line, scored the winning goal with just one minute to go.

The fifth and final game was played again in Kupittaa arena in Turku on Tuesday March 26th. It became one of the most amazing games in Finnish ice hockey history. Midway into the first period, a hard slapsot by a TPS defender hit Risto Jalo right above the kneecap. It seemed to be the end of Jalo’s game, as he was assisted off the ice. At the end of the period TPS was in the lead 2–1.

During the second period, the players, the fans and the spectators in front of the TV at home could not believe their eyes, when Risto Jalo returned to the ice. What had seemed to be an undisputable victory for TPS, now became a fierce battle. During the second period Ilves was able to score once which meant that the Finnish champion would be decided in the third and final period.

At the beginning of the period, Jalo scored the game-tying goal, and shortly after he took Ilves to the lead with his second goal of the evening. TPS had fifteen minutes to fight back, but they never got closer than hitting the post. Ilves had risen twice from a certain defeat to winning the Finnish championship.

In the following summer, Ilves lost its most prominent players. The team was full of talented players and the best ones had already been drafted to the NHL. Mikko Mäkelä, who scored the most points during regular season and the play-offs, went to NY Islanders along with the promising young forward Ari Haanpää. Raimo Helminen, the center for the second line and leader in assists, joined the NY Rangers, while the best defender, Ville Sirén, joined the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Losing its key players was too much to bear for Ilves. The core of the championship team was now broken. In the 1980’s, the NHL was still rather new for European hockey players. At the beginning of the decade, the first Europeans had been among the Stanley Cup winning teams. Today, it has become the standard for teams to expect to lose their best talents to North America. While at the time Ilves faced a new kind of situation.


Written by Hannu Kauhala, 2021

Translated by Mika Vehmas

It is not that difficult to identify the best line in the Finnish Championship series in 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was the first line of Ilves: Jorma Peltonen in the center, Lasse Oksanen on the right wing and Reijo Hakanen on the left side. Hakanen was later on replaced by Pekka Leimu.These four players achieved great fame as a line as well as individually. During their reign (1962–1975), Ilves won 12 medals.

Lasse ”Oka” Oksanen (1942–) participated in all of them; three championships (1962, 1966, 1972), four silver and five bronze medals. Only two players have won more medals than Oksanen. In 1995 the Finnish Elite League re-named the award for best player in the regular season to the ”Lasse Oksanen trophy”. Oksanen started his premiere stage career in 1960 and retired in 1982. He was the team’s captain 8 times.

Jorma ”Tumba” Peltonen (1944–2010) won 11 Finnish championship medals in total. He was three years younger than Oksanen, and therefore did not yet have a place on the team, when Ilves won the title in 1962. Peltonen scored the most points in the Finnish Championship series five times! During the season 1969–70, he scored an amazing total of 59 points in 22 games. Throughout the same season Pekka Leimu came third in the total points ranking and Oksanen scored the most goals.

Initially Reijo ”Mintsu” Hakanen (1943–) was the left winger. He was an original member of the line and already played for Ilves in the championship year 1962. Hakanen assisted Ilves in winning 7 medals in the Finnish Championship series. He was one of the first Finns to play hockey abroad. Hakanen scored the most goals and assists in the Austrian league, when he played for Klagenfurt in 1968–69. After this he returned to Ilves and won 3 more medals.

When Hakanen left to Austria, Ilves needed a new left wing for its first line. Pekka Leimu (1947–) lived up to the expectations. He won 8 medals in total and was the best goal scorer for 3 seasons. In 1968–69 he scored an amazing 36 goals in just 22 games.

It is no surprise that all 4 players also represented Finland on the national team. Oksanen appeared in 15 international tournaments and was the team captain 5 times. Peltonen played in 9 international tournaments and Hakanen as well as Leimu played in 3.

Hakanen played not only in Austria, but also in West-Germany. Peltonen played 5 seasons in Swiss and Italian leagues. Oksanen won the Italian Championship once during his three seasons in Italy. The NHL was not a realistic dream at the time, but Oksanen participated in the training camps of both the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.

All 4 players have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Finland: Oksanen (Ice Hockey Lion no. 53), Hakanen (Ice Hockey Lion no. 59), Peltonen (Ice Hockey Lion no. 60) and Leimu (Ice Hockey Lion no. 229). Oksanen has also been inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame.

Oksanen’s jersey number 14 and Peltonen’s jersey number 16 have been retired by Ilves. This displays the meaning and success of this legendary line.

Written by Hannu Kauhala, 2021

Translated by Mika Vehmas

Ilves is known as a team established by young people, so it is not surprising that their junior coaching has always been of high quality. Before ice hockey became a commercialized professional sport in Finland, juniors were the foundation of Ilves’ success in the men’s league. Enjoying the game is still one of the corner stones in the identity of Ilves.

In the 1930s, when Ilves was founded, sport was not only for fun, but for education as well. Sports, the same as many other elements of society, helped mould the ideal citizen. Decency, communality, respecting authorities, hard work and obedience were taught also when practicing ice hockey. Since then, junior coaching has adopted a more goal-oriented and practical methods. In the 1950s the season for ice hockey started in October, right after the soccer season’s conclusion. B-juniors gathered twice a week and training was versatile, including gymnastics and different ball sports, like field hockey. Practicing on the ice was usually possible from November onwards until the weather became too warm in the spring. In Ilves, youngsters got to train with the men’s team too, which was not common at the time.

The coaching club of Ilves, established in 1960, was responsible for junior coaching. In the 1962–63 season Ilves had over 20 junior teams with 35 coaches. On that season the Kanada-sarja (”Canada series”) began. Teams were compiled from different districts and named after NHL teams, which gave the series a dash of playfulness, internationality and general attention. At best, Kanada-sarja games could have around 4 000 spectators. Periods were shorter than in adult league games, every player received around the same time on the ice and slap shots were forbidden in order to encourage the strengthening of players’ wrist shots.

In 1966, there were already almost 30 teams and Ilves decided to establish the first F-juniors team. In their first Long-term Strategy Ilves aimed at training junior hockey players around the year. At the time, even men’s league teams did not practice year-round. Ice hockey was getting more popular and that showed in the number of junior players. Seven years later 98 coaches were training 34 junior teams.

Ice hockey teams, especially the junior ones, have always had a strong sense of community. Excitement towards the game among parents, relatives or friends has often been a motivating factor for children to join a team. The profits from the men’s league team were used to fund junior teams as top-quality work with junior players was seen as the guarantee for upholding the success of Ilves. As the game started to get more professional, the demands for junior teams became tougher. It takes dedication, and for many junior players going to school and playing hockey took all the time they had. From the 1970s onwards more and more of the financial responsibility shifted to the parents. An association was formed in 1975 to help junior teams in raising funds and supporting the hobby.

In the 1980s junior coaching became increasingly systematic. Junior players received individual training programs starting from 11 years old. This level of seriousness in junior coaching raised up the question about the meaning of youth sports. As a compromise, junior teams decided to emphasize doing your best. In Ilves, junior hockey being playful and fun is as important as the opportunity to compete and develop as a player.

Finnish ice hockey became a fully professional sport in the 1990s. The chance to play in the NHL was now a realistic dream. Seeing new Finnish superstars on the international premiere stage encouraged many kids to join junior hockey teams. When assembling men’s league teams, trading players became more important than utilizing players from your own junior teams. Starting from the year 2000, The Ilves Association continued to manage junior teams, but the men’s league team was ran by the newly established Ilves-Hockey Corporation. The amounts of junior players in Ilves have decreased as the hobby has gotten more expensive and as the age groups have become smaller. Ilves has had a new strategy for junior work since 2015. The main aim is to ease young players into starting the hobby. There are now more junior players in Ilves. In total 824 enthusiastic junior players wore the prestigious Ilves jersey in the season 2019–20.

Written by: Jesse Saarinen 2021

Translated by: Mika Vehmas

Aarne Väinö Edvard Honkavaara (June 7th 1924 – March 22nd 2016).

Aarne Honkavaara was a legend in the arena of Finnish ice hockey; he played several vital roles at the top level of both domestic and international hockey for eight decades. These roles included player, coach, general manager, representative, reporter and statistician. Honkavaara’s legacy has had a lasting impact on the realm of Finnish ice hockey.


Aarne Honkavaara got his first pair of skates at the age of eleven and, thus began his lifelong love affair with ice hockey. He played his first game for Tampereen Kisa-Veikot at the age of 14, only discovering the following morning via the local newspaper that his opponent was Ilves. After this, Honkavaara played for Ilves in every other game of his career. One of his most astonishing records, 8 goals in one game, has proven to be hard, if not even nearly impossible, to break.

Aarne Honkavaara played in 62 premiere stage games during his career between 1943–1958. In the games he played during these years, he scored 143 goals. He was known for his ”tough, but fair” style and in total he sat only twice in the penalty box. Honkavaara, also known as Dynamo, Väiski or Honkku, won seven Finnish championships and two silver medals. Additionally, he was the first Finnish player to get experience from the motherland of hockey, Canada, when he played with the Sarnia Sailors in the autumn of 1950.

Whilst playing for the Finnish national team, Aarne Honkavaara scored 46 goals in 47 games. He represented Finland twice in the World Championships (1949 & 1951) and in the Winter Olympic Games of 1952 as the the team’s captain. Honkavaara’s international career ended on 3rd January 1953 in a match against Poland, when he broke both of his shinbones.


Honkavaara’s coaching career began in Ilves in 1954 and in 1955 he became the head coach of the Finnish national team until 1959. He continued as the second coach and general manager until 1969. As the head coach of Ilves he led his team to three Finnish Championships and received two silver medals.  Later on he acted as the coach for the Ilves women’s team and achieved two more medals, silver and bronze.


Besides his day job, Honkavaara worked also as an coaching instructor for the Finnish Ice Hockey Association. Additionally, he was a member in the association’s board and was a member in many different committees. At Ilves Honkavaara acted as the chairman of the of the whole organization and later on for the their veteran society Takkuturkit.


Aarne Honkavaara was employed as a summer sports reporter for the local newspaper Aamulehti. He was also the editor of the Ice Hockey News and helped produce 40 ice hockey books. He assisted around 20 teams and clubs in collecting statistics for their yearbooks. On top of this, he helped eleven different newspapers to compile introductions to World Championship tournaments and commentated on the events.


At twelve years old, Aarne Honkavaara established a sports club with his friends from the same neighbourhood. The boys competed all summer long in different kind of sports and in order to decide who was the winner, Honkavaara began writing down the results. This was the starting point of his career in statistics. Since 1961 he published ice hockey yearbooks, which were compiled mostly of the previous year’s statistics. He collected the data, wrote and proof-read the articles, did the marketing and even sold them to the bookstores. To top it all off, he even carried the financial responsibility. Honkavaara carried out his work for 40 years and his legacy continues on today as the same ice hockey yearbooks are still published every season.


Honkavaara understood the meaning of tradition for the development and sustenance of ice hockey’s popularity. He was one of the founding members of the Finnish Ice Hockey Museum (now known as the Hockey Hall of Fame Finland) and acted as the chairman for 13 years. The first exhibition opened in December 1979.

Honkavaara’s versatile career as a trailblazer for Finnish ice hockey did not go unnoticed. He received the honorary title of ”liikuntaneuvos” and the life time achievement award Uno in the the Finnish Sports Gala 2011. He is also Ice Hockey Lion number 10 in the Hockey Hall of Fame Finland. Sculptor Martti Peitso used Honkavaara as a model for the iconic Lynces Academici sports statue, The Finnish Elite League named the best goal scorer trophy after him, Ilves has honoured him in the Ilves Hockey Legends -gallery and the club has retired his jersey number, 7 to preserve his legendary status.

Written by Kimmo Leinonen, 2021

Translated by Mika Vehmas

Women’s hockey in Ilves began in 1971, when an icon from the men’s team, Lasse Oksanen, was asked to aid in the development of the women’s side of the sport.

“I was mainly a figure head. I attended the meetings that were organized for female hockey players. On the first occasion, I met, among others, Anne Haanpää who was 12 years old at the time (her jersey number 10 was retired 28.1.2012). We started training in the Eteläpuisto ice rink”, Oksanen says.

When Oksanen had free time aside from his own career, he trained the women’s team. They rehearsed around once a week.



Shortly after, Esko Peltonen, older brother of legendary Ilves forward Jorma Peltonen, took charge of coaching the women’s team for many years. He worked for local newspaper Aamulehti and therefore was able to gather up sponsors and coverage. These were vital for the team in its early stage.

Training and games took place not only in the Eteläpuisto ice rink, but also in Vehmainen, Kaukajärvi and Sorsapuisto. When the women’s Finnish Championship series began in 1982, the team was already playing in Koulukatu artificial ice rink. In 1989, the Ilves women’s team transferred to the new ice hall built in the Tesoma district.

At first Ilves’ women’s team would play against boy’s teams.

”In 1978 in Espoo we played against another women’s team for the first time. We played outside against the local team Jäähonka and we won 6 to 5”, says Anne Haanpää (née Bäckman).

That was the starting point for the unofficial Finnish Championship series. International connections were also made, when some teams from Canada visited Finland. In 1980, the Ilves women’s team travelled to Sweden and played against the local team MoDo. The end result was a landslide victory for Ilves, with a score of 10–1.

In 1981, Anne Haanpää was coaching the second Ilves women’s team. Among this team 14-year old forward Marianne Ihalainen (her jersey number 16 was retired 4.11.2001) and a long-time Team Finland goaltender Kati Ahonen. Both were chosen for the league team.

Ilves played their first game in the Finnish Championship series on the 27th of November in 1982. They beat Ässät from Pori with the score 14–2. The first few championship titles were won by HJK from Helsinki. After that, Ilves dominated and won 8 championships between1985–94. The title was then claimed in 1989 by EVU from Vantaa, and in 1994 by the Shakers from Kerava

”I still do not know why we had to play a re-match against EVU in -89. We would have won the championship otherwise, but EVU won the re-match and therefore the title”, Haanpää complains.



In the early 1990s, Anne Haanpää and many other national team players began to prioritize training. Head coach Juuso Heimo introduced new influences in to women’s hockey. All in all it was difficult to find male coaches for women’s teams. At worst, teams might have had a proper coach only for a month.

”Juuso Heimo was originally an equipment manager. But his summer training was tough. Markku Hannunkivi was the first proper junior coach. At that time training on the ice began as well as learning game strategies”, Ihalainen explains.

In 1992 Markku Hannunkivi transferred from the boy’s team to consult for the women’s team, and eventually found himself as the head coach.

”I immediately modified the summer training system. Earlier the season started in June, but I transferred it to April. Between seasons the team would have three weeks holiday. Soon the other teams in Finland followed our example”, Hannunkivi says.

In 1993, Ilves won the championship and in the next season they came in second. Meanwhile, game strategy was developed systematically. Hannunkivi re-joined the women’s team later in 2010s. He has experience from both boy’s and women’s hockey.

”When you show the boys what to do next, they will do it. Women will ask ’why’. That is why I try to explain the motives behind the excercises in women’s training”, Hannunkivi describes the differences.



The Blues from Espoo dominated the first decade of the new millennium. They lost the title only once: to llves in 2006. Marianne Ihalainen was the head coach from 2002 to 2006.



Ilves began the decade by winning the championship in 2010. They won the European Championship in 2011, which was the last time that title was played for.

The Finnish National Team won the bronze medal in Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010. Seven of the players came from Ilves: Rosa Lindstedt, Jenni Hiirikoski, Heidi Pelttari, Venla Hovi, Annina Rajahuhta, Mari Saarinen and Linda Välimäki.

Women’s hockey in Tampere really took off in 1989, when their ice hall was built in Tesoma. In 2015 severe mold damage was found and the ice hall was demolished. For a few seasons the team was not doing so well, but that changed again when the new Tesoma ice hall was completed in 2017.

In the same, year women’s hockey got a ”facelift,” when the series was re-named Naisten Liiga (”Women’s League”) and The Finnish Ice Hockey Association began investing more into women’s hockey.

For many years Ilves did not have an actual ”path” for new players. Girls would be kicked out of boy’s teams at around 13–14 years old, and then join the women’s team or players would transfer from other women’s teams. Ringette players have also proved to be skillful hockey players.

In mid-2010s, Ilves joined forces with Varala sports academy. This included, among other things, morning rehearsals for women by the academy. At first only school children and students could join, but later on the so-called academy status could be applied by anyone.

The current head coach for the women’s team, Linda Leppänen (née Välimäki), started coaching girls in 2019. Nowadays there are around 60 players in the youngest age groups and hopefully the women’s league team will receive new stars from the juniors.

In 2018, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association began providing financial support to women’s teams in order to hire professional coaches. The corona pandemic forced the teams to play without spectators being present. This meant also losing the income from the entrance tickets. Luckily, Ilves has received financial aid from the government to cover up for some of the losses.


Written by: Lasse Tuorila, manager Ilves women’s team, 2021

Translated by: Mika Vehmas

Jarmo Wasama (born 2.12.1943 in Elimäki), an Ilves defender, was one of the best hockey players in Finland in the mid-1960’s, if not the very best. Unfortunately, his career and life ended in a traffic accident on February 2nd 1966. Wasama was just 22-years old.

On the previous evening, in a home game in Hakametsä arena, Ilves had beaten SaiPa from Lappeenranta 6–4. Wasama was elected the best player of the game.

It had been an especially cold winter. On the morning of February 2nd, Wasama left from his home in Takahuhti district, driving towards the city center to his work place. When he arrived at Sammonkatu street, there was a thick mist created by the cold air and exhaust fumes. Wasama was not able to see a tractor that was working on the street, which caused him to hit the aircompressor attached to the rear end of the tractor. The front end of his car was completely crushed and the steering wheel penetrated the right atrium of his heart. Wasama was killed and his father, sitting in the passenger’s seat, was severely injured.  The accident happened within seeing distance of Hakametsä arena.

The death of Jarmo Wasama was reported also in international newspapers. He shared many outer features with James Dean, a famous American 1950’s movie star. Their fates had resemblance too: Dean was killed in a car accident at age 24. Around this time, ice hockey was still competing with bandy over the most popular winter sport title in Finland. The 1965 ice hockey world championship tournament at the Hakametsä arena in Tampere had been a big mile stone for Finnish hockey. Wasama was the best player of team Finland, but he was not a big star or an idol. Media coverage and celebrity culture, especially in ice hockey, was not that big of a deal in the 60’s. The era of European players in the NHL became later. Nowadays, exceptionally talented young players like Wasama would be drafted in the first round.

Despite their devastating loss, Ilves won the Finnish championship that season. In a way, Wasama won his second championship posthumously. He won the first title in Ilves during 1961–62, in his first premiere stage season. He played all 18 games and was elected to the series all-star line. Wasama was an all-star line defender in all of the seasons he played, for a total of five times.

Wasama was a trailblazer in Finnish ice hockey as he was the first offensive defender.  He played for the national team in three world championship tournaments and once in the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck 1964. In the Tampere world championships in 1965, Wasama was the best goal and point scorer for team Finland.

In 1985 Jarmo Wasama was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Finland as Ice Hockey Lion number 36. The Finnish Elite League has named the ”Rookie of the year” award after him and Ilves has retired his jersey number 2. In Kaleva district, near the scene of the tragic accident, one of the streets is named ”Jarmo Wasaman polku”.

Additionally, Wasama was a multitalented sportsman. He played soccer as well in Tampereen Palloilijat and represented the junior national team of Finland four times in total.

Written by Matti Hannula, 2021

Translated by Mika Vehmas