Kiekko-Espoo Naiset (previously Espoo Blues Naiset) is the representative women's ice hockey team of the hockey club Kiekko-Espoo based in Espoo, Finland. They compete in the Naisten Liiga (NSML), the premier women's ice hockey league in Finland, where they are the winningest team in league history. The team has been known as Espoon Kiekkoseura (EKS), Espoo Blues, Espoo United, and Kiekko-Espoo during its tenure in the Naisten Liiga; at least one Finnish Championship medal (gold, silver, or bronze) was won under each name.
|Division||Upper Division (Ylempi jatkosarja)|
|Home arena||Tapiolan urheilupuisto|
|General manager||Emma Terho|
|Head coach||Sami Haapanen|
|Affiliate(s)||Espoon Kiekkoseura (EKS)|
|Parent club(s)||Kiekko Espoo Oy|
|Farm club(s)||Kiekko-Espoo Akatemia|
|Championships||1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019|
|1989–1992||Espoon Kiekkoseura (EKS)|
|1998–2016||Espoo Blues Naiset|
|2016–17||Espoo United Naiset|
The team entered Naisten SM-sarja (now Naisten Liiga) in the 1990-91 season with the name EKS (Espoon Kiekkoseura). The two seasons played as EKS were an impressive showing for the newcomers and resulted in a bronze medal each, one in the 1990-91 season after defeating Ässät and one in the 1991-92 season after defeating KalPa.
Several EKS players also played for the bronze medal winning Finnish women's national team at the 1992 IIHF World Championship including Liisa Karikoski, Katri-Helena Luomajoki, and Hanna Teerijoki.
In 1992 EKS was renamed Kiekko-Espoo, the same name as its brother-team in the Liiga. The team continued to be held to bronze or lower finishes, making it to five bronze medal series in six years and winning four of them (1993, 1994, 1997, 1998).
The Golden Age: Espoo Blues, 1998–2016Edit
The team was renamed Espoo Blues in 1998, continuing the trend of sharing the name of its brother-team in the Liiga, which also renamed Espoo Blues in that year. The name change unwittingly marked the beginning of a "golden age" for the team. Starting with their first SM-sarja gold medal in 1999, after achieving victory over JYP in the finals, they went on to win a staggering seven consecutive championships (1999–2005) and a total of 13 championships in 18 years. The Blues were kept off the SM-sarja medal podium only three times in the 1998–2016 span; in addition to their championship titles, they earned the team's first silver medal in 2009 and two more bronze medals in 2006 and 2016.
The Espoo Blues were also strong competitors at international tournaments in this period, earning medals at six IIHF European Women's Champions Cups: three silver medals (2005, 2007-08, 2009-10) and three bronze medals (2008-09, 2013–14, 2014–15).
Espoo United, 2016–17Edit
In March 2016 Jääkiekko Espoo Oy, the parent club of both the Espoo Blues of the Naisten Liiga and Espoo Blues of the Liiga, declared bankruptcy with estimated liabilities of approximately €3 million. In response, Jussi Salonoja, a Finnish millionaire and film director who had previously owned the Espoo Blues franchise from 2002–2012, created a new club and organization called Espoo United Oy, stating that he was "committed to supporting hockey in Espoo." The Espoo Blues men's and women's basketball and ice hockey teams would play for Espoo United.
For the 2016–17 season the Espoo United women's ice hockey team played in the Naisten SM-sarja and won silver in the 2017 Finnish Championship. The Espoo United men's team played in the Mestis, the league below the premier-level Liiga, where they won bronze in the playoffs.
On 15 August 2017 Salonoja announced that the Espoo United was abandoning its women's ice hockey and basketball teams for financial reasons. “The reason is twofold: the men's teams' budgets are far greater than those of women's teams, so their running is more demanding, but on the other hand, [the men's teams] are more interesting to sponsors and audiences,” Salonoja said.
The future of women's ice hockey team was left uncertain and many possible solutions were proposed, including being acquired by HIFK or merging with Espoo Blues Juniorit (a junior club with strong ties to the franchise).
Espoo Blues part 2, 2017–2019Edit
In September 2017 the Finnish Ice Hockey Association announced that it had supported the creation of an independent association, Ysikoppi ry, to oversee the team and had given its approval for the team to compete in the upcoming 2017–18 season under the name Espoo Blues.
Players and personnelEdit
2020–21 coaching staffEdit
- Naisten Liiga (14): 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019
- Naisten Liiga (2): 2010, 2017
- Naisten Liiga (8): 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2006, 2016
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the franchise. The team was called the “Espoo Blues” during the 2015–16, 2017–18, and 2018–19 seasons; “Espoo United” in the 2016–17 season, and “Kiekko-Espoo” in the 2019–20 season.
Note: Finish = Rank at end of regular season; GP = Games played; W = Wins (3 points); OTW = Overtime wins (2 points); OTL = Overtime losses (1 point); L = Losses (0 points); GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
|Season||League||Regular season||Post season results||Top scorer (regular season)|
|2015–16||SM-sarja||2nd||28||19||3||1||5||162||67||64||Won bronze medal, 1-0 (Kärpät)||L. Välimäki 70 (31+39)|
|2016–17||SM-sarja||2nd||28||17||3||1||7||109||68||58||Lost final, 2–3 (Kärpät)||L. Välimäki 60 (29+31)|
|2017–18||Liiga||3rd||30||16||2||4||8||125||74||56||4th: Lost bronze medal, 0-1 (Team Kuortane)||E. Rakkolainen 27 (16+11)|
|2018–19||Liiga||1st||30||23||1||0||6||164||58||71||Won Championship, 3-0 (Ilves)||A. Rajahuhta 66 (36+30)|
|2019–20||Liiga||1st||30||20||3||2||5||145||60||68||Won semi-final, 3–0 (Team Kuortane);
Finals cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
|E. Rakkolainen 42 (13+29)|
Franchise records and leadersEdit
- Most goals in a season: Karoliina Rantamäki, 39 goals (24 games; 2000–00)
- Most assists in a season: Minttu Tuominen, 50 assists (30 games; 2018–19)
- Most points in a season: Michelle Karvinen, 81 points (22 games; 2008–09)
- Most points in a season, defenceman: Minttu Tuominen, 62 points (30 games; 2018–19)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Tea Villilä, 76 PIM (16 games; 2008–09)
- Best save percentage in a season, over ten games played: Noora Räty, .954 SVS% (19 games; 2006–07) / Isabella Portnoj, .954 SVS% (19 games; 2013–14)
- Best goals against average in a season, over ten games played: Noora Räty, 1.21 GAA (19 games; 2006–07)
- Most career goals: Karoliina Rantamäki, 355 goals (338 games; 1992–2007)
- Most career assists: Petra Vaarakallio, 351 assists (286 games; 1992–1994, 1995–2006)
- Most career points: Karoliina Rantamäki, 639 points (338 games; 1992–2007)
- Best career points per game, over 30 games played: Michelle Karvinen, 3.667 points per game (39 games; 2007–2009)
- Most career points, defenceman: Minttu Tuominen, 313 points (208 games; 2006–2009, 2013–2016, 2017–present)
- Most career penalty minutes: Tea Villilä, 317 penalty minutes (142 games; 2008–2010, 2016–present)
All-time scoring leadersEdit
The top-ten point-scorers in franchise history.
Source(s): Elite Prospects
Years active with Kiekko-Espoo listed with players' names.
- Liisa Karikoski, 1990–1994
- Katri-Helena Luomajoki, 1990–1994 & 1995–2002
- Hanna Teerijoki, 1991–1994
- Karoliina Rantamäki, 1992–2007
- Petra Vaarakallio, 1992–2006
- Minna Dunder, 1993–94
- Miia Kataja, 1994–2006
- Maria Saarni, 1994–2000
- Marianne Mattila, 1996–1998
- Emma Terho, 1996–2000, 2004–2007 & 2008–2015
- Päivi Halonen Virta, 1997–2006
- Susanne Ceder, 1998–2000
- Oona Parviainen, 1999–2010
- Essi Sievers, 2002–2010 & 2011–2014
- Fengling Jin, 2005–06
- Noora Räty, 2005–2009
- Rui Sun, 2005–06
- Michelle Karvinen, 2007–2009
- Linda Välimäki, 2010–2017
- Arina Zvezdina, 2011–2012
- Moeko Fujimoto, 2014–2015
- Nikola Gápová, 2015–2018
- Danielle Rozon, 2017–18
- Foster, Meredith (2019-03-26). "The Espoo Blues are the 2019 Aurora Borealis Cup Champions". The Ice Garden. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Historia". Kiekko-Espoo Naiset (in Finnish). Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Espoo Blues Women - In English". Blues Naiset. 2012. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
- Hiitelä, Juha (2016-04-12). "Konkurssipesä myöntää: Bluesin tilanteeseen ei ratkaisua" [Bankrupt organization concedes: Blues situation has no solution] (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- Lempinen, Marko (2016-04-28). "Nyt se on varmaa: Jussi Salonoja perusti uuden seuran – "Lähetän hakupaperit tänään"" [Now it is certain: Jussi Salonoja founded a new club - "I'm submitting league admittance papers today"] (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Espoo Unitedin konkurssista tuli virallista" [Espoo United's bankruptcy becomes official] (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 2018-05-04. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Espoo United Cuts Women's Basketball & Ice Hockey Teams". News Now Finland. 2017-08-15. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
- Oivio, Janne; Lempinen, Marko (2017-08-15). "Jussi Salonojalta raju ratkaisu: Espoo United hylkää naisjoukkueet" [Jussi Salonoja makes a drastic decision: Espoo United reject women's teams] (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
Syy kaksijakoinen: miesten joukkueiden budjetit ovat selvästi suuremmat kuin naisten joukkueissa, eli niiden toiminnan pyörittäminen on vaativampaa, mutta toisaalta juuri ne kiinnostavat sponsoreita ja yleisöä enemmän, Salonoja sanoo.
- Foster, Meredith (2017-08-17). "Espoo United women's team folds one month before puck drop". The Ice Garden. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
- Tammilehto, Teemu; Leinonen, Simu (2017-08-15). "HIFK on kiinnostunut Salonojan hylkäämästä Espoo Unitedin naisjoukkueesta" [HIFK is interested in the Espoo United women's team that Salonoja has abandoned] (in Finnish). yle. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
- "Espoo Unitedin sarjapaikka Naisten Liigassa Ysikoppi ry:lle" [Espoo United has a place in the Naisten Liiga with Ysikoppi ry] (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. 2017-09-04. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
- Saarinen, Joska (2017-09-04). "Espoo Unitedin hylkäämä joukkue sai tarvittavat rahat kasaan: "Kumppaneita on sen verran, että uskallamme lähteä kauteen"" [Rejected by Espoo United, the team got the money they needed: "There are so many partners that we dare to enter the season"] (in Finnish). yle. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
- "Liiga (W): Kiekko-Espoo". eliteprospects.com. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
- "Jokkue 2019-2020" [Players 2019-2020]. Kiekko-Espoo Naiset (in Finnish). Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "Espoo Blues 2018-2019". eurohockey.com. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
- "2015–16 Naisten SM-sarja playoff" (.xls). tilastopalvelu.fi (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. March 2016. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
- "2016–17 Naisten SM-sarja playoff". tilastopalvelu.fi (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. March 2017. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
- "2017–18 Naisten Liiga pudotuspelit". tilastopalvelu.fi (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. March 2018. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
- "2018–19 Naisten Liiga pudotuspelit". tilastopalvelu.fi (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. March 2019. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
- "2019–20 Naisten Liiga pudotuspelit". tilastopalvelu.fi (in Finnish). Finnish Ice Hockey Association. March 2020. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
- "All Time Regular Season Player Stats for Kiekko-Espoo". eliteprospects.com. Retrieved 2020-07-01.