TAMPERE – Tampere, which hosted the 2015 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship last week, prides itself on being Finland’s hockey city. Home to one of the country’s best rivalries between its top-league clubs Ilves and Tappara, it also houses the Finnish ice hockey museum (Suomen Jääkiekkomuseo) usually labelled as Hockey Hall of Fame Finland in English publications.
First off, if you’ve visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto before, it of course can’t compare by its size. But the collection in Tampere is a must-see for hockey fans visiting the city and its location is more than just a hidden gem.
Vapriikki in central Tampere was once an iron factory built in the 19th century where everything from busses to weapons was built in its heyday. Those times are over, and in the late ‘90s the building was transformed. For a bargain price of €10 for adults one can access the factory-turned-museum with things to see for everybody.
The ice hockey museum is one of the permanent exhibitions at Vapriikki. Some years ago it moved to a bigger place within the building and will soon move again to an even larger area.
Vapriikki also offers a natural history museum, a mineral museum, a shoe museum, a doll museum, a postal museum, an exhibition on innovations and one on the story of Tampere.
Among the temporary exhibitions is one about pilgrimages from Finland to places such as Rome, Santiago de Compostela or even Jerusalem during the Middle Ages. And there’s an exhibition on Tampere in 1918 during the civil war offering perspectives from people both from the White Guards militia and from the communist Red Guards factions. Another temporary exhibition is about refugees from Karelia who were evacuated en masse in the ‘40s after the lost war with the Soviet Union.
The hockey museum with all descriptions bilingually in Finnish and English is one of just a few in Europe. Hockey fans travelling to IIHF tournaments may have seen the one in Prague located in a mall next to the O2 Arena that hosted the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. In Moscow, the Russian Hall of Fame that was established last year is building a hockey museum in the Legends’ Park next to the newly opened Ice Palace that will serve as the main venue of the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
“The hockey museum is a success story for the complex,” said Kimmo Leinonen about Finland’s version in Tampere.
“They wanted to have us here because we bring an audience, men in the 30s and 40s, which doesn’t go to museums that often. They can come with all the family and everybody can see here what they like in the different exhibitions.”
And whether one is male or female, young or old, it’s very visible at the museum which is Finland’s national sport.
Leinonen, a Tampere native, is the chairman of the hockey museum and also a long-time member of the IIHF Historical Committee. The 65-year-old is also one of currently 227 members of the Finnish Hall of Fame pictured at the wall of honour at the museum’s entrance where fans can also see the original Canada Bowl named like that because Finns living in Canada donated the trophy to the Finnish Ice Hockey Association that has been given annually to the Finnish champion since 1951.
Leinonen was involved in hockey in Finland and internationally all his life, as a player with Ilves Tampere, as coach, scout, with hockey bodies such as the Finnish league and the IIHF, and in broadcasting.
He proudly shows the museum, his “baby”, and the historical artefacts it showcases. After a walk through the gate at the wall of honour, one can also spot the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship trophies from 1995 and 2011, the two editions won by Finland. (Yes, the latter is the trophy a staff member famously damaged when falling down from the stairs of the plane upon the national team’s return from Bratislava to Helsinki that became a YouTube hit. Despite the fall, the trophy now looks fine.)
The collection starts from photographs from the beginnings in the 1920s to jerseys and equipment, old and modern alike. One of the oldest photos is from the first organized game in Finland on 15th January 1928 between the two Tampere teams Pyrinto and Palloilijat on Lake Pyhajarvi.
Next to it one can find the Rule Book 1925-1930 from the IIHF (then called LIHG) in French and the first Finnish versions from 1927 and 1928 as well as medals and a trophy from the first national ice hockey championships from those days that were then organized by the Football Association of Finland.
The museum that is open daily except Mondays also offers a scoring simulator and hopes to add more interactive sections in its new premises.
Jerseys include a national team jersey from the ‘50s when Finland started to compete regularly and sweaters from club teams even older such as Ilves Tampere’s one from 1940.
The oldest artefacts from international play is a commemorative medal from Finland’s first international match, an exhibition game with Sweden in Stockholm on 17th February 1933 donated by Valter Tuomi. From 1939 when Finland travelled to Basel, Switzerland, for its first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, visitors can find a participation pin and a commemorative plate donated by Klaus Hagerstrom and Kalevi Sutinen, trousers of the Finnish national team and a cap worn by team captain Risto Tiitola that was part of Finland’s uniform in 1939.
Among the fun items one can find is a Jokerit Helsinki jersey and skates worn by four-year-old Esa Tikkanen and a photo from that time. His father worked at the rink and Esa Tikkanen became kind of a club mascot skating during the intermissions with his little jersey produced by his mother.
Among equipment from Finland’s stars worn in international or NHL play is Jari Kurri’s helmet he wore in the ‘80s with the Edmonton Oilers or Pekka Rautakallio’s Calgary Flames jersey from the same era. Rautakallio also has there the puck he scored his first NHL goal with, his NHL All-Star jersey from 1982 when he was nominated as the first Finnish player and a photo of him shaking hands with then U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
But there’s also material from more recent stars like from the poster boy of the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame’s brochure, Teemu Selanne.
The museum also has changing temporary exhibitions. Until March next year visitors can find historic and modern goalie masks from the collection of mask maker Joni Hallikainen.