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Honkavaara began playing ice hockey at a high level near the end of the 1940s for his local club, Ilves Tampere. His first season (1943–44) was cacelled after five matches because of World War II; the next one only lasted three games, long enough for Honkavaara to score seven goals and three assists. His first full season was 1945-46; even though full seasons back then only lasted eight games, Honkavaara nevertheless managed to score 25 times and add 10 assists. He would play until 1952, without ever failing to maintain his points per match average above 1.
In 1950, Honkavaara made a historical first by crossing the Atlantic Ocean to join a professional team, the Sarnia Sailors of the International Hockey League, becoming the first Finn to do so. Despite his skills, Honkavaara only took part in two exhibition matches before going back home in Finland. The official reason given was the problems for him to get a work permit, but the official reason is believed to be the anti-foreign policies of the club management, common around those years. He nevertheless acquired a knowledge he would use in his career.
Behind the benchEdit
Honkavaara was forced to retire in 1953 after a severe injury suffered during an international match against Poland. He accepted his club's offer to return as player-coach and his contribution helped Ilves to return to the Finnish Elite. Aarne won seven national titles as a player and three as a coach; all with Ilves Tampere.
He participated in three international tournaments with the Finnish National Team: the 1949 and 1951 World Championships and the 1952 Olympics. In 47 international games he scored 46 goals and had 12 assists. He holds the national Finnish team's record for the best goals-per-match ratio.
In addition to his head coach role with Ilves, Honkavaara coached the Leijonat between 1954 and 1959. He then stepped out as a head coach but returned to assist coach Joe Wirkkunen at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, as well as the 1963, 1965, and 1966 World Championships.
Aarne Honkavaara is considered by many as perhaps the best Finnish hockey player ever; he certainly was one of the pioneers of ice hockey in Finland in the pre- and post-war eras. In 1985, he was inducted to the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1987, he was awarded a special prize by the Lynces Academici; no one else earned that honnor. Nowadays, one of the SM-Liiga trophies sport his name: the Aarne Honkavaara Trophy is awarded to the league's best scorer.
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM 1943-44 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 3 7 2 9 0 1944-45 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 3 7 3 10 0 1945-46 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 8 25 10 35 0 1946-47 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 8 25 9 34 0 1947-48 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 6 20 3 23 0 1948-49 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 6 18 5 23 0 1 9 4 9 Finland WC 4 6 0 6 - 1949-50 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 7 11 10 21 0 1950-51 Sarnia Sailors IHL - - - - - 1950-51 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 10 20 14 34 2 1 9 5 1 Finland WC ? ? ? ? ? 1951-52 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 5 10 4 14 2 1 9 5 2 Finland OG 8 2 2 4 0 1956-57 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 5 0 1 1 0 1957-58 Ilves Tampere SM-Liiga 1 0 0 0 0 Totals SM-Liiga: 62 143 61 204 4 International: 47 46 12 58 ?