Lahti Pelicans

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Lahti Pelicans logo.svg
City Lahti, Finland
League SM-liiga
Founded 1992 (1992)
Home arena Isku Areena (Capacity 5.530)
Colors Teal, black, white
Owner(s) Pasi Nurminen
Sami Kallinen
Jarno Lindeman
Petri Kumpulainen
Tomi Veijalainen[1]
General manager Ilkka Kaarna
Head coach Finland Petri Matikainen
Captain Finland Antti Erkinjuntti
Media Etelä-Suomen Sanomat
Radio Voima
Affiliates Peliitat (Mestis)
Franchise history
1891–1964 Viipurin Reipas
1964–1975 Lahden Reipas
1975–1989 Kiekkoreipas
1989–1992 Hockey Reipas
1992–1996 Reipas Lahti
1996–present Pelicans

The Pelicans are a professional ice hockey team playing in the Finnish Liiga, and formed in 1992. They play in the city of Lahti, Finland at Isku Arena. The team is partially owned by retired NHL goaltender Pasi Nurminen.


Viipurin Reipas (1891–1964)[edit]

Viipurin Reipas was a sports club located in Vyborg. They won the first ever Finnish Ice Hockey Championship in 1928 with a team consisting mostly of bandy players. After Vyborg was taken from Finland by Soviet Union during World War II, the club relocated to Lahti where it continued under its original name until renamed to Lahden Reipas in .

Lahden Reipas (1964–1975)[edit]

Reipas spent five seasons in SM-sarja from 1965 to 1970. Their best finish was sixth in 1965–66.

Kiekkoreipas (1975–1989)[edit]

Kiekkoreipas was formed in 1975 to take over hockey operations from Lahden Reipas. They finished top of the league in recently formed First Division in 1975–76 and won promotion to SM-liiga after finishing second in the qualifying series.

Kiekkoreipas spent nine seasons in SM-liiga. In 1978–79 they achieved their highest regular season position, finishing fifth. Their sole playoff appearance came in 1981–82 when they finished sixth and lost to eventual champions Tappara 2–0 in the opening round. After the 1981–82 season, many key players left the club and the team started to gradually fall in the standings. Kiekkoreipas was relegated at the end of the 1984–85 season.

Kiekkoreipas spent four seasons in the First Division and came close to returning to SM-liiga after the 1987–88 season when they lost the best-of-five promotion playoffs to KooKoo 3–2.

Hockey Reipas (1989–1992)[edit]

After the 1988–89 season, a new organization called Hockey Reipas was formed to take over the men’s team from Kiekkoreipas, who continued to take care of junior hockey operations. The 1989–90 season was a success on the ice as the team finished second in the First Division and earned promotion to SM-liiga by beating KooKoo in the playoffs 3–1.

However, the team that won the promotion was an expensive one featuring proven talent such as center Matti Hagman, 1988 Olympic silver medalist Erkki Laine and two World Champions from Czechoslovakia’s 1985 team, goaltender Jaromir Sindel and winger Oldrich Valek.

The 1990–91 season was a modest success. Hockey Reipas finished seventh and recorded club records in wins (21) and points (44). The team remained in the playoff contention to the penultimate day of the season, but two major setbacks in the final stages of the season were too big to overcome. First, Sindel suffered a season-ending injury and a little later Valek was banned until November from hitting a referee in Turku.[2]

In the spring of 1991, the team’s poor financial status was apparent and many key players left the team. Hockey Reipas spent the most of the 1991–92 season in the bottom two, but a season-ending six-game unbeaten streak and a replay win against Tappara was enough to lift the team into tenth place and out of relegation playoffs.

Formation of Reipas Lahti and relegation (1992–1994)[edit]

Hockey Reipas finally went bankrupt after the 1991–92 season. A new organization, titled Reipas Lahti, was quickly formed to take over Hockey Reipas’ operations. The new organization was led by chairman Kari Naskinen while Esko Nokelainen remained as a head coach.[3] The unclear situation caused a mass exodus of players during the offseason. Prospects Marko Jantunen and Niko Marttila left for KalPa and HPK, respectively. Goaltender Jaromir Sindel was signed by Tappara. Other notable departures were forwards Tommy Kiviaho and Jyrki Poikolainen and defensemen Teemu Sillanpää and Jarmo Jokilahti.

Despite signing defenseman Jiří Látal from NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, the 1992–93 season was a disaster as the team recorded a new league record of 39 losses in 48 games. When Reipas lost the first game of the relegation series against KooKoo, Nokelainen was finally fired from the club. He was replaced by Kari Mäkinen. Reipas went unbeaten for the rest of the series, winning four of the remaining five games. Reipas finished first in the series and secured a place in SM-liiga for the next season.

The 1993–94 offseason saw the departures of another two prospects, defensemen Erik Kakko and center Toni Sihvonen. Poor finances limited the summer signings, but former crowd favourite Oldrich Valek returned after his two-year spell in Norway. Valek was a shadow of his former self, recording just two goals in 17 games before his contract was terminated. Mäkinen continued as a head coach but lasted just seven games, all of which the team lost. He was replaced by Jukka-Ville Jääsalmi, who managed to guide the team to just 14 points in 41 games. The 40 losses in 48 games were a new league record. On relegation series Reipas finished last, marking the end of a four-year spell in the top flight.

First division years (1994–1999)[edit]

After the relegation, the team underwent a massive overhaul. Only a few players from the 1993–94 roster remained and many spots were filled by players from the U20 team. Russian Sergei Grisintshov was appointed as head coach. 1994–95 season saw the team finish 8th, missing playoffs.

The following season saw the return of veteran defenseman Kari Eloranta from Rögle and a slight improvement on ice as the team finished sixth. Even with improved results, Grisintshov was sacked with just five games remaining of the regular season. He was replaced by Eloranta, who continued as a player-coach. Reipas made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round by SaPKo. The public interest was waning and in 1995–96 the average attendance was well below 1,000 per game.

Before the 1996–97 season, the team was renamed to Lahti Pelicans. Pelican was adopted as team mascot and the traditional colours of white, orange and black were abandoned in favor of green and yellow. On ice, the team also continued to improve, finishing third in the regular season with 55 points. New image and improved results also sparked a new-found interest by the public as the average attendance rose to over 1,400 per game. In the playoffs, Pelicans were eliminated in the first round by Haukat 3–2.

The 1997–98 season would see another Top 3 finish. In the playoffs, the Pelicans first swept FPS 3–0 and came close to relegating KalPa, losing the best-of-five series 3–2. The final game was decided in overtime.

In 1998–99, the Pelicans finished second with 67 points, 19 points behind the winners Kärpät. The playoffs were a different story as Pelicans swept both Hermes and Sport in three games while Kärpät were eliminated by TuTo in the first round. In the final round, the Pelicans beat KalPa 3–0 and were promoted to SM-liiga after a five-year absence. The Pelicans allowed just six goals in nine games during the playoff run. Acquired midseason, veteran winger Jouko Myrrä scored a team-leading seven goals in the playoffs.

Return to SM-liiga (1999–2002)[edit]

The first SM-liiga season 1999–2000 would prove to be a difficult one. Despite opening the campaign with two wins, a 17-game winless streak with just three ties followed. The team recorded just eight wins and 24 points in 54 games, finishing last 15 points behind Ässät. On the first round of relegation playoffs, the Pelicans swept Diskos 3–0 and went on to face Oulun Kärpät in the final round. The Pelicans lost the series 3–1 and were relegated. Their top flight status was however restored as SM-liiga was expanded to 13 teams and closed from promotion.

Despite adding much-needed veteran presence to the team, the 2000–01 season started slowly and by late November, the Pelicans was placed second-to-last just few points ahead of Ässät. A five-game winning streak before Christmas turned the season around and the team finished seventh, securing their second-ever playoff appearance and recording club records in wins (22), ties (11), goals scored (170) and points (55). Journeyman winger Tommi Turunen had a career season with 55 points while Jan Latvala's 35 points were a club record for defenseman.

The 2000–01 postseason would prove out to be a short one as Pelicans lost 3–0 to TPS, who would eventually win their third straight championship.

The 2001–02 season saw a strong start for the team as they went nine games unbeaten and topped the league. The Pelicans couldn't maintain the momentum throughout the season, finishing fifth, and tying the club record for highest ever SM-liiga finish. The team also set new club records in wins (31) and points (68). Mikko Peltola's 38 assists were a new club record.

In the playoffs, the Pelicans were knocked out by TPS 3–1, but managed to record club's first ever playoff win by winning Game 2 in overtime by Toni Koivunen’s goal.

Financial troubles (2002–2005)[edit]

After the successful 2001–02 season, six of the ten leading scorers and head coach Kari Eloranta left the team.[4][5] His replacement was his former assistant coach, Petteri Hirvonen. The following season 2002–03 saw a turn for the worse as the Pelicans finished second-to-last with 36 points, seven points ahead of bottom-placed Ilves.

The 2003–04 season started dismally and on October 22, 2003, after just two wins and four ties in 15 games, Hirvonen was fired.[6] He was replaced by his assistant coach, Petteri Sihvonen, who led the team to just five regulation time wins in 41 games. The Pelicans finished last, nine points behind SaiPa. Dwindling attendance and dire financial straits led to the wholesale of key players during the season and finally in February 2004, the club applied for debt restructuring.[7]

Defenseman Erik Kakko returned[8] for the 2004–05 season, but the team didn't fare any better. Under the guidance of rookie coach, Petri Matikainen, the team finished last for the second time in a row, recording just seven regulation time wins in 56 games. In April 2005, finally saw the arrival of new ownership led by Pasi Nurminen, who had played 16 games for the Pelicans during the season due to NHL lockout.[9]

Return to playoffs (2005–2009)[edit]

Matikainen left Pelicans after just one season and he was replaced by Jami Kauppi. Despite stronger financial situation, the team continued to under perform and on October 26, 2005, Kauppi was fired after recording just two wins in 16 games.[10] He was first replaced by general manager, Ilkka Kaarna, and finally on January 7, 2006, by former Team Finland coach Hannu Aravirta.[11] Coaching changes turned the 2005–06 season around, but a strong second half wasn't enough to lift the team into the playoffs. The Pelicans finished 12th; five points adrift of the last playoff spot.

The 2006–07 season saw the return of Marko Jantunen[12] as well as a return to playoffs after a five-year absence. The Pelicans finished 10th and recorded its first ever playoff series win by beating TPS in the preliminary round 2–0. During the quarterfinals, they were eliminated in straight four games by eventual champions, Kärpät. The Pelicans managed to score just two goals in the series. Jantunen lead the team in scoring with 41 points alongside center Matias Loppi.

During the 2007–08 season, the Pelicans set new records in wins (33), goals scored (176), fewest goals against (142), and total points (98) finishing sixth and earning a place in the quarterfinals. Their quarterfinal match-up was Jokerit, who went on to win the best-of-seven series in six games. After the season, starting goalie Antti Niemi signed with NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.[13] Loppi set new club records in points (58) and assists (40).

After losing key players Niemi and Loppi,[14] the 2008–09 season started slowly. A second half surge was enough to land the team ninth, securing a third consecutive playoff appearance. During the preliminary round, the Pelicans eliminated Ilves in three games. The last game was decided in overtime by Olli Julkunen's goal as Pelicans won 3–2.[15] During the quarterfinals, the Pelicans lost the series to Blues 3–4, despite leading the series 3–2.

Out of playoffs (2009–2011)[edit]

Aravirta left the Pelicans after the 2008–09 season. His replacement was Mika Toivola, who had led Ässät to the finals in 2006.[16] The 2009–10 season saw the team miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, finishing 12th. Summer acquisition Juhamatti Aaltonen[17] led the league in goals scored with 28. The season would also prove to be the last for many veteran players such as Marko Jantunen, Erik Kakko, and Toni Koivunen.

The start of the 2010–11 season saw the team struggling under the guidance of Toivola despite a number of high-profile summer signings such as NHL veteran Mike York, Dwight Helminen, Matias Loppi, and defenseman Jyri Marttinen.[18][19][20] Finally, after a six-game losing streak Toivola was sacked on October 24, 2010. His replacement was assistant coach Pasi Räsänen.[21] Despite a promising start with two wins in the first three games, Räsänen failed to turn the team around and during November, with starting goalie Niko Hovinen injured, the Pelicans recorded a nine-game losing streak. The Pelicans finished last with 59 points, just one point adrift of safety. During the relegation playoffs, they beat Vaasan Sport in four straight games.[22]

First medal (2011–2012)[edit]

Räsänen's contract was not renewed for the next season. The Pelicans' initial choice was Kari Jalonen, but he decided to opt for KHL instead.[23] Finally Kai Suikkanen, who had won the championship with TPS in 2010 was recruited as new head coach on March 30, 2011.[24]

The 2011–12 season would prove out to be by far the most successful season by that point. The team finished second and set new club records in points (111), wins (39), and goals scored (213). Forward Ryan Lasch led the league in scoring with 62 points. Markus Seikola's 16 goals were a league high for defensemen.

In the quarterfinals, the Pelicans met Kärpät, but despite winning the first game 5–0 they lost three straight and were facing elimination. The Pelicans rebounded with a 4–2 home win in game 5. Game 6 in Oulu was decided in overtime by Radek Smolenak's goal. A late season acquisition,[25] Smolenak scored the game-winning goal also in Game 7 as the Pelicans won 3–2 and advanced to semi-finals for the first time in club's history.

In the semi-finals, the Pelicans defeated Blues in five games to earn a place in the finals against JYP. The Pelicans started the series with a 2–0 home win, but lost the following four games as JYP won their second championship in three years. The final two games of the series were decided in overtime. Lasch lead the league also in playoff scoring with 16 points in 17 games. Smolenak's eight goals tied him alongside team captain Arttu Luttinen in the lead for goals scored.

Decline (2012–2015)[edit]

During the 2012-13 off-season, the team saw a mass exodus of key players; three of whom left for NHL: Defenseman Joonas Järvinen signed with Nashville Predators,[26] Lasch left for Anaheim Ducks[27] and goaltender Niko Hovinen joined the Philadelphia Flyers.[28] Other notable departures were Arttu Luttinen and centers Justin Hodgman[29] and Tero Koskiranta.[30] Pelicans' summer signings included two former NHL first round draft choices: centers Angelo Esposito[31] and Ryan O'Marra,[32] journeyman winger Lee Goren[33] and defenseman Danny Richmond.[34] None of the acquisitions finished the 2012–13 season with Pelicans.[35][36][37][38]

The 2012–13 season was a far cry from the previous campaign. Midway the season Pelicans was at the bottom of the table with Ilves. A strong second half saw the team climb back into the playoff contention. They were eliminated from the playoffs on the last day of the season, finishing 11th.

After the season, Suikkanen left for TPS[39] and he was replaced with Hannu Aravirta.[40] The 2013–14 season started strongly, and with just one overtime loss in 11 games, Pelicans topped the league. However, an 11-game losing streak around Christmas saw the team to fall out of playoff spots.[41] Another turnaround followed and just six regulation time losses in 25 final games were enough to land the team 8th, which guaranteed a return to playoffs after a one-year absence.

Pelicans beat HIFK in the preliminary round 2–0. Both games were decided in overtime. In the quarterfinals, Tappara would prove to be too strong an opponent, winning the best-of-seven series in six games.

The 2014–15 season saw yet another head coach change as Aravirta was replaced by Tomi Lämsä. The team struggled with injuries throughout the season and when being out of playoff contention by February, key players like centers Tyler Redenbach and Tommi Paakkolanvaara and wingers Michal Repik and Jordan Smotherman were let go in order to cut financial losses.[42][43][44] Pelicans finally finished 12th with 68 points. The poor showing cost Lämsä his position as he was fired just days after the regular season ended.[45]

Current era (2015-)[edit]

After Lämsä was fired, Petri Matikainen was appointed as a new head coach with a three-year contract on March 16, 2015. Pasi Nurminen joined the coaching staff as an assistant coach.[46]

The 2015-16 season saw the Pelicans climb back to playoff contention as they finished ninth with 89 points, a 24-point improvement from previous season. NHL veteran Ryan Potulny led the team in scoring with 36 points while Juha Leimu's 18 goals were a league high for defenseman.

The regular season was filled with controversy as multiple players from Pelicans earned suspensions during the season. Defenseman Ben Blood was suspended for a total of 15 games in five different occasions[47] while winger Dane Byers was suspended for a total of seven games in two separate occasions.[48][49]

The Pelicans eliminated KalPa in the opening round of the playoffs 2-1 despite losing the series opener in overtime and went on to face regular season leaders HIFK in the quarter-finals. After trailing the series 2-0, the Pelicans tied the series with a 4-2 away win in Game 3 and an overtime win at home in Game 4. The Pelicans were eliminated when HIFK won the next two games; both with a score of 2-1.

Season records[edit]

This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Pelicans. For the full season-by-season history, see List of SM-liiga seasons

Season Games Won Lost OTW OTL Points Goals
Rank Postseason
2010–11 60 17 37 2 4 59 133 180 14 Saved in relegation
2011–12 60 30 18 9 3 111 213 155 2 Lost final
2012–13 60 22 28 7 3 83 163 180 11 Out of Playoffs
2013–14 60 25 24 6 5 92 156 155 8 Lost Quarter-final
2014–15 60 16 30 6 8 68 125 166 12 Out of Playoffs
2015–16 60 24 25 4 7 89 145 171 9 Lost Quarter-final



European titles[edit]

  • 1st, gold medalist(s) Energie Steiermark Trophy (1): 2017


Current roster[edit]

Updated November 26, 2015.[50]

# Nat Player Pos S/G Age Acquired Birthplace
25 Finland Alanne, JoonasJoonas Alanne LW L 26 2013 Rovaniemi, Finland
24 Finland Bjorninen, HannesHannes Bjorninen C L 22 2014 Lahti, Finland
10 United States Blood, BenBen Blood D L 28 2015 Plymouth, Minnesota, United States
34 Canada Byers, DaneDane Byers RW L 31 2015 Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada
77 France Da Costa, TeddyTeddy Da Costa C R 31 2015 Melun, France
74 Finland Erkinjuntti, AnttiAntti Erkinjuntti (C) LW L 31 2015 Rovaniemi, Finland
23 Finland Hakulinen, AnreiAnrei Hakulinen RW L 27 2014 Turku, Finland
84 Finland Heino, HenriHenri Heino Injured Reserve C L 31 2015 Lahti, Finland
55 Finland Hovinen, MiroMiro Hovinen D L 25 2015 Espoo, Finland
41 Finland Juvonen, JanneJanne Juvonen G L 23 2011 Kiihtelysvaara, Finland
14 Denmark Lassen, StefanStefan Lassen (A) D L 31 2015 Herning, Denmark
26 Finland Latvala, JanJan Latvala D L 45 2007 Jyväskylä, Finland
9 Finland Leimu, JuhaJuha Leimu D L 34 2013 Tampere, Finland
8 Finland Manelius, NicoNico Manelius D L 26 2014 Vantaa, Finland
5 Finland Pietilä, Juha-PekkaJuha-Pekka Pietilä D R 26 2010 Hollola, Finland
16 United States Potulny, RyanRyan Potulny C L 33 2015 Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States
39 Finland Pöyhönen, MarkoMarko Pöyhönen (AInjured Reserve RW L 30 2006 Hollola, Finland
35 Finland Rajaniemi, SamiSami Rajaniemi G L 25 2015 Oulainen, Finland
92 Finland Repo, SebastianSebastian Repo RW R 21 2014 Lahti, Finland
6 Finland Ritamäki, JanneJanne Ritamäki RW L 31 2012 Heinola, Finland
20 Finland Roine, MiikaMiika Roine LW L 25 2015 Jyväskylä, Finland
27 Finland Siikonen, MiskaMiska Siikonen LW L 21 2014 Tampere, Finland
7 Finland Sopanen, EetuEetu Sopanen D R 21 2014 Kouvola, Finland
53 Finland Tuhkanen, NikoNiko Tuhkanen D L 29 2013 Lahti, Finland
22 Finland Tyrväinen, JuhaniJuhani Tyrväinen (A) LW L 27 2014 Seinäjoki, Finland
81 Finland Vartiainen, TaaviTaavi Vartiainen RW L 23 2014 Lahti, Finland

Jan Latvala was Pelicans captain for season 2010–11

Team captains[edit]

NHL alumni[edit]

Retired numbers[edit]


List of head coaches[edit]


  1. ^ "Pelicansille uudet omistajat" (in Finnish). Jatkoaika. 2005-04-15. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
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  50. ^ "Joukkue" (in Finnish). Retrieved November 26, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Lahti Pelicans at Wikimedia Commons