The Kontinental Hockey League’s Moscow headquarters played host to a world-famous VIP on Tuesday. Jari Kurri, five-time Stanley Cup winner, visited the head office on the banks of the Moscow River, but it was not as a hockey legend but as general manager of the League’s debutant club from Finland, Jokerit of Helsinki.
Kurri was joined by his deputy, Janne Vuorinen, Jokerit CEO Jukka Kohonen and the club’s international operations chief, Roman Ryabkov. Welcoming the Finnish delegation on behalf of the KHL were Hockey Operations Vice-President Dmitry Kurbatov, Sporting, Legal and Contract Affairs Director Alexei Kireyev, plus the Head of the Competitions Department Director Sergei Kozlov and Refereeing Department Director Alexander Polyakov.
During the visit, the Jokerit representatives braved a barrage of searching questions regarding the structure and wellbeing of the club, although both sides understood that it was too early to cover every possible eventuality and that this initial, introductory meeting was merely the first of many. Nevertheless, no-one present could fail to be impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the Finnish guests, who were clearly elated at the thought of all the opportunities on the club’s horizon.
During a break in the proceedings, Jukka Kohonen glanced around the room and his gaze settled on a row of six clocks sited on one of the walls. These displayed the time in different time zones and beneath each one was a list of all the KHL clubs in that region. On spotting the dial for GMT + 2, Mr. Kohonen joyfully announced, “Here is where you need to put Helsinki!”
Some of those present noticed a minor omen – that the inclusion of the Finns even suits the office staff, seeing that the other KHL cities in the relevant time zone - Donetsk, Minsk and Riga – all come before Helsinki in the Cyrillic alphabet, and so only a minimum amount of labor will be needed to update the list. On noticing the Jokerit CEO shrugged and said with a smile, “Be it above or below it’s all the same. What matters is that Finland finally gets onto the KHL map.”
His upbeat mood was shared by all of the Helsinki delegation, and they spoke as one about the importance and significance of this great leap forward for both the club and for Finnish hockey – that Jokerit should be part of the strongest league in Europe.