Jari Kurri (born May 18, 1960) is a Finnish former ice hockey player. He has won Stanley Cup five times and he is the first Finnish player ever to be inducted to Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. Nowadays Kurri is the main owner and General manager of ice hockey team Jokerit, which plays currently in KHL league. Kurri has also been a General manager for Finnish national ice hockey team.
Kurri started his career in adult hockey in Jokerit, which played in Finnish SM-Liiga at that time. He made his SM-Liiga debut already in 1977 and played three seasons for Jokerit before being drafted to NHL by Edmonton Oilers in 1980. Kurri made himself famous in Finland already in 1978, when Finland won U18 Junior European Championship. He scored the decisive goal in the final vs. Soviet Union.
Kurri moved to Edmonton in late summer 1980 and managed to claim his place in the first team during pre-season. He was uncertain about his chances in NHL, due to his lack of tough international games and almost non-existent skills of English language. Luckily, fellow Finns Risto Siltanen and Matti Hagman also played for Edmonton in 1980-81 season. We must remember that in 1980, the knowledge of NHL in Finland was somewhat limited. There was no proper news coverage on the league and no matches could be seen on the television.
Golden age of Oilers
During 1980’s Edmonton Oilers was undoubtedly the best team in NHL. Especially the pairing of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri proved to be successful move. Their playing style fit together perfect and Kurri was able to score the goals that Gretzky arranged. Kurri was also great player defensively, which made also other teammates look better.
After winning four Stanley Cups, Gretzky was traded to LA Kings and there were huge speculations, how Kurri will manage without him. However, Kurri proved his worth and Edmonton took another Stanley cup in season 1989-90. This was the last season of Kurri with the Oilers. For season 1990-91, Kurri played in Italy for HC Devils Milan. After that, he returned to NHL and reunited with Gretzky.
In Los Angeles Kings, Kurri excelled again with Gretzky. The dynamic duo even led Kings to Stanley Cup Finals in 1992-93. However, they were swept away by Montreal Canadiens in the finals. Kurri’s role was eventually more defensive in Kings, when compared to the one in Oilers. During the lockdown season 1994-95, Kurri played for Jokerit.
After six years in Los Angeles, Kurri played a short period in NY Rangers and one season in both Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Colorado Avalanche. Kurri ended his career after season 1997-98.
As mentioned before, Kurri had a big role in Finland’s U18 European Championship in 1978. Moreover, Kurri has won silver in U20 World Championships in 1980, bronze in Canada Cup 1991, silver in World Championship games 1994 and bronze in 1998 Olympic games in Nagano.
Other interesting stuff
Kurri is married to former Miss Finland, Vanessa Forsman. They have four children. Kurri has twin sons from his first marriage. Kurri has achieved numerous awards and recognitions. His #17 jersey has been retired by both Edmonton Oilers and Helsingin Jokerit.