November 23, 2015
Jyrki Lumme was a fun, adventurous defenseman best remembered with the 1990s Vancouver Canucks.
Defensively he was a tall, rangy presence, blessed with good anticipation and a smart poke check. He would rather wrap up an attacker with his arms rather than hammer them with a body check. As a result he was best off with a physical partner, a role Dana Murzyn adequately filled for years.
Lumme was more counted on for clearing the zone of the puck. He made a good first pass, though he preferred to rush it out, hence the adventurous tag. He weaved his way through the opposition not with spectacular speed but shifts and fakes.
Drafted by Montreal he would earn an early reputation for taking unnecessary chances and get spurned spectacularly at times. As he matured he took fewer chances, though he always retained that gambler label.
He rarely would fire the puck off the glass to get it out of his zone, but rather would come to rely on backhanding the puck high over everybody's head and into the neutral zone. This became a very smart strategy as Vancouver stockpiled speedy forwards like Pavel Bure and the Courtnall brothers looking for a friendly bounce of the puck.
Growing up, he never really dreamed of playing in the NHL.
"My dad helped me out. He got me skates and took me to practices and stuff like that. I didn’t really have anybody. Like I said, we were just a bunch of kids playing hockey. I think I was 10 years old when I went to my first team. And before that it was just in the backyard with the other kids after school.
When I was growing up I never thought about the NHL. Back when NHL wasn’t that big in Finland. I got drafted and after that I got an offer to come over, and I was thinking - maybe I’ll get a chance ... you never know... and if it doesn’t work out I’ll just come back."
Montreal gave up on Lumme prematurely, and moved him to Vancouver for a draft pick in 1991.
Though Lumme admitted he never really fit into Montreal's style of play or long term plans, Montreal's loss was definitely Vancouver's gain.
“I was fortunate to play more than half of my career in Vancouver,” says Lumme. “We had a great group of guys and great players.”
Under coach Pat Quinn Lumme played nine seasons for Vancouver, accumulating 83 goals and 321 points, both records for Canucks defensemen at the time of his departure in 1998. Four times he was named as the Canucks best defenseman.
“Pat Quinn had great respect for the players and that respect came back to him,” Lumme explained. “It was the same thing for the city and the fans and the community and everybody. It was not only hockey, but life, too. It’s just the man he is — the way he carries himself.”
Although he was one of the better defensemen in the NHL, Lumme was never considered elite. He was a powerplay regular but lacked an overpowering shot to become a true point quarterback.
Lumme would go on to play three seasons in Phoenix as well as briefly with Dallas and Toronto (where he was reunited with Pat Quinn). He retired with 114 career goals and 354 assists for 468 points in 985 career NHL games.
Nowadays Lumme, who grew up idolizing Finnish hockey legends Lasse Oksanen and Risto Siltanen, lives a quiet life in Finnish country side where he maintains a cabin. He is a part owner of the Ilves Tampere hockey team he grew up playing for, and partakes in NHL alumni events both in Finland and British Columbia.