Notable Finnish team Jokerit Helsinki quits the Russian-based KHL after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jokerit has competed in the KHL since 2014 and previously competed in Finland’s top league (Liiga, 1 Divisioona, SM-Sarja) since 1967.
Jokerit Helsinki Quits KHL Over Ukranian Invasion
MTV reporting that Finnish ice hockey team Jokerit have quit the Russian-dominated Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
They had been due to play Spartak (of Moscow) in the play-offs next week. https://t.co/1gAb4UsSR9
— Ronan Browne (@RonanBrownen) February 24, 2022
After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, Jokerit Helsinki announced that they have cut ties with the KHL. The club is expected to return to Finland’s Sm-Liiga, where they played before 2014.
This comes after Ukraine’s UHL Suspended operations indefinitely for safety reasons. For now, Jokerit is the only non-Russian team in the KHL to speak out about the issue. There haven’t been any statements from Kunlun (China), Dinamo Riga (Latvia), Dinamo Minsk (Belarus), or Barys Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan). None are expected to speak out as of right now.
Jokerit has been one of the top teams in the KHL standings for the last couple of years. However, they haven’t won a Gagarin Cup, either being knocked out of the playoffs late or having the playoffs cancelled.
The team has produced a number of notable finish alumni, some of the most recognizable include Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri, who is the majority owner of the team.
Jokerit was in the news during the 2020 offseason for highly sought-after defenceman Mikko Lehtonen, who never panned out for either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.
What This Means For The KHL
With Jokerit leaving the KHL, Russia loses Finland as a market, which had been highly successful up until this point. As the sports league that represents Russia, the KHL will most likely be highly publicized for a while.
For Jokerit, they will most likely join the league they started in, the SM-Liiga. Although it is slightly lesser competition, it’ll be a much-needed reunion with one of Liiga’s most recognizable and storied teams.
For now, it is unknown if Jokerit will take their current players over. It wouldn’t be surprising if Finnish-born players currently in the KHL will sign with Jokerit to further bolster their roster, get out of Russia entirely, or until this situation resolves.