Alpo suhonen & veli-pekka ketola

Former head coach of Chicago Blackhawks Alpo Suhonen (second from right), PAMA Hockey North America CEO and former professional hockey player Jon MacWilliams (left), The Chairman of PAMA Hockey Matti Jääskeläinen (second from left) and Finnish ice hockey icon Veli-Pekka Ketola (right) had a gathering in Isomäki Areena, Pori. The picture was taken in the dressing room of Porin Ässät, the local national league hockey club.

Alpo Suhonen is a well known hockey coach in Finland. Alpo’s playing career in SM-sarja Finland was in Porin Karhut, Porin Ässät and Helsingin Jokerit. After his playing career Suhonen started coaching in FOPS. In 1989-1990 Alpo started as an assistant coach in Winnipeg Jets, and in 1992-1993 he coached Winnipeg Jets’ newest superstar Teemu Selänne. After two seasons in Winnipeg and a 5-season long period in Finland and Switzerland, Suhonen moved to Toronto. In 1998-2000 he was an assistant coach in Toronto Maple Leafs, and after these two seasons Suhonen joined the Chicago Blackhawks. There he became the first Finnish and European Head Coach in an NHL-team. Suhonen has lately been a sports- and team manager for Austrias national team from 2012 to 2017.

Veli-Pekka Ketola’s playing career is as fascinating as Suhola’s coaching career. After playing over ten seasons in the top league in Finland (Porin Karhut, Porin Ässät and Helsingin Jokerit) Ketola moved to North America. Hockey in North America at that time was in a turning point. Two hockey leagues, NHL and WHA were competing for being the best hockey league in North America. The WHA was founded in 1971 with ten teams, and intended to operate as a direct competitor to the NHL. In it’s first season, 67 NHL players had defected to the new league. Most known player to jump from NHL to WHA was Bobby Hull. One of the teams in WHA was Winnipeg Jets, and In 1974 Ketola joined the team. Jets won  the WHA championship in 1975 with Ketola in it. Ketola played 3-seasons in WHA with Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Cowboys.

After the 1979 season , four teams from WHA merged to NHL. WHA-hockey league was terminated, as it was active from 1972 to 1979. Ketola went back to Finnish league to play in Porin Ässät for four seasons in 1977. In 1981 Ketola went back to North America, and this time Ketola played for Colorado Rockies, an NHL team. It was the last season for the Rockies in Colorado, as the team moved to New Jersey in 1982-1983 and became the New Jersey Devils. At that time Ketola had already moved back to Finland and ended his career in Kuopion Kalpa. The Finnish players who have played in both WHA and NHL are Veli-Pekka Ketola, Matti Hagman, Hannu Kamppuri, Markus Mattsson, Pekka Rautakallio and Risto Siltanen.

And if you were wondering what stick Veli-Pekka Ketola is holding in his hands, it’s the PHX Titan stick