International Ice Hockey Federation

Finnish super trio honoured

Finnish super trio honoured

Peltonen, Koivu, Lehtinen had numbers retired

Published 27.12.2015 16:51 GMT+2 | Author Risto Pakarinen
Finnish super trio honoured
Finnish legends legends Jere Lehtinen (left, #26), Saku Koivu (middle, #11) and Ville Peltonen (right, #16) had their numbers retired during an on-ice ceremony at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
In 1995, Jere Lehtinen, Saku Koivu, and Ville Peltonen played their way into the hearts of a nation. Last night, their national team numbers were retired.

Twenty years ago, Jere Lehtinen, Saku Koivu, and Ville Peltonen - and their 18 teammates - drove through Helsinki in a parade that stopped the city in its tracks. Over 100,000 people came to the Finnish capital’s downtown to greet the team that had just won the country’s first hockey world championship. 

Last night, a sold-out Hartwall Arena witnessed how their national team sweaters  - numbers 16 (Peltonen), 11 (Koivu), and 26 (Lehtinen) were raised to the rafters.

It was an emotional ceremony with the families on the ice as well, listening to the former players’ emotional speeches as they thanked the fans, the support they had felt from the families – and from each other, as Saku Koivu put it, holding back the tears. 

“Hockey has given me so much. Playing hockey has made me happy,” said Peltonen.

After the ceremony, they joined the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö in his box. 

Koivu, Lehtinen, and Peltonen had fantastic careers, regardless of how you want to measure it. Ville Peltonen, a second-generation Team Finland player, won eight World Championship medals, four Olympic medalds, and a silver at the 2004 World Cup. He was the Finnish SM-liiga rookie of the year, and twenty years later, after years in the Swiss league, the NHL, and the KHL, he returned to his alma mater, HIFK, and captained it to a Finnish title, and was elected league MVP. 

Jere Lehtinen has four World championship medals, and four Olympic medals, and a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He also won the Selke trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL three times. 

And Saku Koivu, the youngest of the three, became the second-longest serving captain of one of the most legendary hockey clubs in the world, the Montreal Canadiens. The little centre who could beat cancer and returned to action and won eight medals in the World championships and Olympics, and was voted into the World Championship All-Star team three times, and the Olympic tournament All-Star team once. 

Heroes are made in all leagues, but national heroes are made in national teams, when the players represent their countries and it’s the 1995 IIHF World Championship in Stockholm that guarantees that the three names are always joined together. In fact, after the 1995 tournament, Lehtinen only played in one more World Championship and Finnish coaches often liked to pair Koivu with Teemu Selanne instead. 

But in 1995, when Finland won the final against Sweden 4-1, Ville Peltonen scored a hat-trick. Saku Koivu was a babyfaced leader of the team, a Finnish league superstar, and the Next One if there ever was one in Finland. Jere Lehtinen, Koivu’s linemate in TPS Turku, was the veteran of the three, having already been on the silver-medal winning teams in 1992 and 1994. 

The line was dubbed the Huey-Dewey-Louie line and at the airport, Peltonen, Lehtinen, and Koivu posed for photographers wearing duck masks and made the country sing and dance like never before – or since. 

Even after all these years, as they walked out on the red carpet on Saturday night, waving to the crowd and hugging each other, they reminded people of those spring days twenty years ago. It was also a reminder of the fact that after all the wins and losses, championships, injuries, and disappointments, a friendship remains. 

They will walk together forever.


Back to Overview