|Home Arena:||Vaasa Arena (cap.: 4,448)|
|Colors:|| Red, black and white|
|General Manager:||Tomek Valtonen|
|Head Coach:||Antti Törmänen|
|Affiliates:||HeKi Kauhava (II.Divisioona)|
Vaasan Sport is a professional ice hockey club based in Vaasa, Finland. They play in the Liiga. They play their home games at the Vaasa Arena and exist since 1939. Sport has played one season in the SM-Liiga, in 1975-76, but has mostly been playing in the Mestis and its former equivalents through its history.
- Mestis championship titles: 2009,2011, 2012
- Mestis championship runners-up: 2005, 2006
- Mestis championship bronze medalists: 2007
The early yearsEdit
Sport's playing history began with 1962-63 in the Maakuntasarja, an equivalent to today's SM-sarja. The team earned its first ever victory on January 20th 1963, a 6-3 win over Lapua Virkiä. This win proved to be Sport's only win of the short (only six games) season of the league. The team lost its five other games and were outscored 34 goals against 13 for the season and finished last in the league.
In the next few seasons, Sport was demoted to the Perussarja. The was fairly succesful down there, with a first, fifth then second place in the league, but remained there until 1968-69, where they finally earned a promotion back to the Maakuntasarja. They burnt the league, with a perfect 8-0 record. They however failed to gain promotion, as they lost both games they had to play in the Suomensarja qualifiers. But fate turned later during the year, as during the automn of 1969, a team in the Suomensarja, Upon Pallo, dropped from the league. This left a spot wide open in the Suomensarja, for which three teams fought: Sport, Mikkeli Palloilijat and Turun Teräs. Each team played each other in a small tournament and Sport beat both, thus earning a second promotion, this time to the Suomensarja, second level of ice hockey in Finland. Sport managed to finish fourth in the eight teams league, and attracted an average of 968 spectators to their games.
The SM-Liiga was created in 1975-76 using the teams from the Suomisarja. As a Suomisarja member, Vassa thus became one of the ten founding teams of the new elite league of Finland. Raimo Brax scored the league's first ever goal, in Vaasa, against HIFK Helsinki.
Sport's first and only SM-Liiga season was not very successful, as the team only won 5 games out of 30 in the season. The team outscored 259 goals against to only 114 goals for, and head coach Matti Ruohonen did not return with the team following this bad season. Unsurprisingly, Vaasa was relegated to the I.Divisioona following the season.
I.Divisioona - good and the bad yearsEdit
Vaasa fought hard to climb back to the SM-Liiga. In 1976-77. New head coach Jorma Suokko led the team to a second-place finish in the league, and Sport had to deal with SaPKo and Kärpät in order to achieve a promotion back to the top. Kärpät eventually prevailed, though, and Vaasa's next seasons saw them become less and less likely promotion contenders, especially as the team lost key members such as Håkan Hjerpe and Kalevi Aho to SM-Liiga teams in 1978-79, then Raimo Brax and Kari Helander in 1979-80. They managed top-five league finishes from 1976-77 to 1981-82 inclusively, except for an 11th place finish in 1978-79.
Things began to worsen for Sport in 1982-83. Esko Nokelainen, a former player who became head coach in 1978 and had coached the team for five seasons, led the team to a seventh place finish before being replaced by Pekka Paavola after the season. Paavola didn't do better, with a 10th place finish in 1983-84 and brought the team to an even worse record in 1984-85. He was fired during the season, but his replacement, Markku Herala, couldn't do better and the team finished 12th overall that season, which resulted in a relegation to the II.Divisioona.
The 1985-86 season, spent in the II.Divisioona, proved to be some kind of a formality. Vaasa finished first overall and climbed right back to the I.Divisioona for the 1986-87 season. Vaasa had some promising elements on the team for their comeback season, namely Håkan Hjempe who returned to the team, and a very promising forward, Jonas Hemming. Vaasa however lied in mid-table anonymity for the next four seasons, finishing sixth, fifth, ninth and sixth overall on those four seasons before two more bad seasons hit the team and Sport Vaasa was relegated once again to the II.Divisioona in 1992.
Return to the II.DivisioonaEdit
The five seasons purgatory in the II.Divisioona saw no less than seven head coaches take the team's destiny in their hands: Kaj Rosvall, Juha Ilkka, Tapio Rautalammi, Pekka Lumela, Jari Härkälä, Staffan Nykvist and Jari Kiveliö. Sport managed to return to the I.Divisioona with a first-place finish in 1996-97. The result came at a price however, as the season had several major hardships. The first one came as head coach Jari Härkälä left the team despite still being on contract to join KalPa Kuopio; the second came as Sami Laaksoharju, a promising young defenceman, suddenly died during the season. Despite the troubles, new head coach Staffan Nykvist led the team back to the I.Divisioona for the 1997-98 season.
Coming into the new millenium, Sport Vaasa started showing signs of economic difficulties. The team's player budget was deemed rather high, but the budget was only the tip of the iceberg of Sport's financial woes. The team's coaching pair, Kari Heikkilä and Håkan Hjerpe in protest to the irresponsible financial habits of the team, resigned in late July. A bankruptcy was avoided in 2000 when the players agreed to a 20% salary cut, Kalervo Laaksoharju agreed to make some of his money available and the fans collected some 30,000 finish marks to help the team stay afloat and decrease it's 3,000,000 finnish marks debt. Despite those off-ice problems, the team nevertheless remained successful on the ice, regularly finishing in the league's top-5.
Sport Vaasa was one of the founding members of the Mestis when it was created in 2000. Ever since the league's creation, Vaasa has consistently been a top performer. They finished first overall in the 2006-07 season and won the playoffs in 2008-09, which allowed them to challenge for SM-Liiga entry. The league had choosen to close itself from the promotion and relegation system in 2000 in order to prevent teams being promoted to the league or relegated from it without the league's consent. There had however been a door open to letting in teams that meet their standards (which was proved by KalPa Kuopio's promotion to the SM-Liiga in 2005) and, from 2008-09 onward, the SM-Liiga agreed to let a qualification series be played between SM-Liiga's worse team and the Mestis winner. Sport Vaasa was the first team allowed to participate in this series after it had defeated Jokipojat in the Mestis Finals. Vaasa was thus allowed to play a qualification series against Ässät Pori. The best-of-seven series was won 4-2 by Pori, in a very tight series where every game was decided by a single goal margin, exept for the second (1-3 win for Ässät) and fifth (5-0 win for Ässät).
- 14. Sami Laaksoharju (while not officially retired, taken off or rotation following Laaksoharju's death in 1996-97)
- 27. Tomi Väkelä
- 29. Håkan Hjerpe
Season by season resultsEdit
Season by season resultsEdit
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by Sport. For the full season-by-season history, see Vaasan Sport seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Records as of April 8, 2007.
|Sport's season-by-season record|
|2005-06||Mestis||45||28||1||16||172||106||58||2nd|| Juhani Tamminen|
|Markus Jämsä|| Salamat (3-2) |
|2006-07||Mestis||45||32||4||9||195||105||68||1st||Mikko Manner||Markus Jämsä|| K-Vantaa (3-0) |
|2007-08||Mestis||45||23||5||17||193||139||76||6th|| Mikko Manner|
|Markus Jämsä||Jukurit (2-3)|
|2008–09||Mestis||45||25||5||2||13||145||104||2nd||Juhani Tamminen||Markus Jämsä|| D Team (3-0) |
|2009–10||Mestis||45||11||3||4||16||152||120||4th|| Juhani Tamminen|
|Markus Jämsä||D Team (1-3)|
The content of this article essentially comes from a translation of the Finnish Wikipedia article devoted to Sport Vaasa, available at http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaasan_Sport.