Skip to main content

Matti Hagman Passes Away


While names like Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne are household names in North America, Finnish hockey fans are quick to point out Matti Hagman as one of the best players the small Scandanavian country has produced.

Hagman was a scoring superstar in Finland, playing in Finland's highest league with HIFK Helsinki when he was just 17 years old. In his first 4 seasons with his hometown team he scored 95 goals in 119 games. He also participated in the 1975 World Junior Championships, the 1975 and 1976 World Championships and the 1976 Olympics in Innisbruck, Austria.

Hagman was a 6th round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 1975. After representing Finland in the first ever Canada Cup tournament in the fall of 1976, Hagman joined the Bruins and had moderate success, scoring 11 goals and 17 assists. Only 15 games into his second NHL season, the Bruins traded away the Finnish wonderboy to the WHA's Quebec Nordiques, where he finished the season.

Hagman returned to HIFK Helsinki for two seasons after his North American try-out. He also started working as a fireman while continuing to play on the ice. However he refused to believe he wasn't good enough to play in the NHL, and on September 11, 1980, he got his chance to return to the league. This time it was a much better fit as his high flying style would fit in nicely with a very young Edmonton Oilers team.

It proved to be a tremendous move by Oilers GM Glen "Slats" Sather. Hagman would play 2 full seasons with the Oilers, scoring 41 goals and 112 points, modest numbers on a team known for incredible output. But Hagman's presence (along with Risto Siltanen's) helped a young Jari Kurri adjust to North American life. Kurri couldn't speak a word of English at the time but due to their presence Kurri, unlike many Europeans especially in those days, became very comfortable with life in North America went on to become one of the greatest right wingers ever.

"I thought I'd need more experience back home, but Matti was a big reason I decided to come the first year,'' recalled Kurri. One would have to wonder how Hagman would have done had he had a mentor like that a few seasons earlier while in Boston.

Matti also helped Kurri score the first of his more than 600 goals.

"Matti passed and I one-timed it from the high slot,'' remembers Kurri. "It went in and out, play went on, but the referee (veteran Ron Wicks) saw that it was in.''

Hagman returned to Finland permanently in 1982, although he did play the 1985-86 season in Germany. Hagman's career ended in 1992 as one of the greatest players in Finnish history. In 513 Finnish League games he scored 288 goals and 462 assists for 750 points. He also played in 104 international competitions for the Finnish National Team, scoring 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points. Those games include 4 World Championships, 3 Canada Cups and the aforementioned 1976 Olympic Games.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M