The SM-liiga (marketed as just Liiga from 2013 on), colloquially called the Finnish Elite League in English or FM-ligan in Swedish, is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. It was created in 1975 to replace the SM-sarja, which was fundamentally an amateur league. The SM-liiga is not directly overseen by the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, but the league and association have an agreement of cooperation. SM is a common abbreviation for Suomen mestaruus, "Finnish championship".

Liiga
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023–24 SM-liiga season
FormerlySM-sarja
SportIce hockey
Founded1975; 49 years ago (1975)
First season1975–76
CEOMikko Pulkkinen
MottoSe on totta (It's for real)
No. of teams15
CountryFinland
Most recent
champion(s)
Tappara (12th title)
(2022–23)
Most titlesTappara (12 titles)
TV partner(s)Telia Company, TV5
Level on pyramidLevel 1
Relegation toMestis (closed until 2025)
International cup(s)Champions Hockey League
Related
competitions
Mestis
Suomi-sarja
Official websiteLiiga.fi

The SM-liiga formerly had a system of automatic promotion and relegation in place between itself and the Mestis, the second highest level of competition in Finland, but the automatic system was ended in 2000. The league was opened in 2005 and allowed KalPa to get a promotion. In 2009, a new system was introduced and it includes the last placed SM-liiga team facing the Mestis champion in a best of seven playout series. In 2013, the relegation system was abandoned again and replaced by a procedure in which successful clubs of Mestis may apply for a promotion if they fulfill definite financial criteria. Since 2013, Jokerit joined the KHL and Espoo Blues went bankrupt, but Sport, KooKoo and Jukurit were promoted. Therefore Liiga is a competition of 15 teams since the 2016–17 season. In 2025 the SM-liiga will implement a promotion and relegation system where the last placed team of SM-liiga will face the Mestis champion. SM-liiga will also limit the amount of clubs able to participate in the competition to 16 teams after the 2025–26 season.[1]

Teams from the SM-liiga participate in the IIHF's annual Champions Hockey League (CHL), competing for the European Trophy. Participation is based on the strength of the various leagues in Europe (excluding the European/Asian Kontinental Hockey League). Going into the 2023–24 CHL season, the SM-liiga was ranked the No. 3 league in Europe, allowing them to send their top four teams to compete in the CHL.[2]

History edit

 
SM-liiga clubs' former jerseys
Logo of the SM-liiga from 2005 to 2013
Logo of the SM-liiga from 1984 to 1997

The SM-liiga was constituted in 1975 to concentrate the development of top-level Finnish ice hockey, and pave the way towards professionalism. Its predecessor, the SM-sarja, being an amateur competition, had its disadvantages, which were perceived as impeding Finland's rise to the highest ranks of ice hockey.[citation needed] SM-liiga hired Kalervo Kummola as its first chief executive officer, who served until 1987.[3][4]

One of the main problems was that the governing of the SM-sarja was based on the annual meeting of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, where all important issues were decided by vote. Since all clubs registered under the Finnish Ice Hockey Association had the right to vote, the many amateur clubs prevailed over the few business-like clubs. Therefore, the concentrated development of top-level Finnish ice hockey by the motivated and financially capable clubs proved arduous. The new SM-liiga was to be run by a board consisting of its participating clubs only and to have an agreement of cooperation with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association.[citation needed]

The SM-sarja was also outdated on its own, as it was run according to amateur principles. Clubs were not supposed to pay their players beyond compensation for lost wages. However, by the 1970s many clubs were already run like businesses and recruited players through a contract of employment, paying their wages secretly and often evading taxes. However, in 1974, accounting reform in Finland extended book-keeping standards to cover sports clubs, and shortfalls were exposed in audit raids. The SM-liiga was to allow wages for players, and clubs were also put under a tighter supervision. They were to establish their own association for SM-liiga ice hockey only, separating their commitments from junior activities and other sports. Copies of all player contracts were to be sent to the SM-liiga to provide players with adequate security, such as insurance and pensions.[citation needed]

The SM-sarja had other limits for players. According to amateur ideals, no player could represent more than one club within one season. Personal sponsorship was also forbidden. To discourage trading, a system of quarantine was in force. The SM-liiga stripped the limitations for players, replaced quarantine with a then-modest transfer payment, and introduced the transfer list. Players wanting a transfer were to sign up, and the SM-liiga would distribute the right of negotiations to clubs. In practice, the list was not successful, as both parties often worked their way around the formalities.[citation needed]

These changes led to a transition towards professional ice hockey as the league became semi-professional. Only a few players would make a livelihood out of ice hockey in Finland in the 1970s, and many players, especially the young, would settle for a contract in the SM-liiga without a wage.[citation needed]

A major financial development for professional ice hockey in Finland was the introduction of playoffs. Gate receipts and other income from playoffs were pooled and distributed as a placement bonus. Although playoffs were the standard way of determining the champions in North American professional sports, at the time they were not common in Europe.[citation needed]

The SM-liiga was established rather hastily. The required changes were initiated at the 1974 annual meeting, and the SM-liiga was launched for the 1975–76 season. It was the first Finnish professional sports league, and its solutions were untried. However, there had been a mounting demand for these changes, as the popularity of ice hockey had been rising in the previous decade.[citation needed]

The SM-liiga picked up where the SM-sarja left off with its 10 clubs. The four best of the regular season were to proceed to the playoffs. The system of promotion and relegation from the SM-sarja remained in force: last-placed teams of the regular season had to qualify for their position in the SM-liiga against the best teams of the second-highest series.[citation needed]

The combined attendance for the first eleven regular seasons hovered around 900,000. In 1986–87, the number of games for each team was increased from 36 to 44, reaching its current level of 56 games in 2000–01, and the SM-liiga was expanded to 12 clubs for the 1988–89 season. The general popularity of ice hockey strengthened through international success of the Finland men's national ice hockey team, and the combined attendance climbed through the 1990s to about 1.8 million. This prompted an increase in the profitability of the ice hockey business and the completion of the transition to full professionalism. By the mid-1990s, all players were full-time, and by 2000, most clubs had reformed into limited companies. In late 1990s and early 2000s the SM-liiga was the strongest hockey league in Europe and the second strongest in the world. At that time many Finnish, Czech and North American players made their professional breakthroughs in Finland. Particularly HIFK, Jokerit and TPS had many former and future NHL players in their rosters during the 1990s and early 2000s.[citation needed]

Since the 2000–01 season, the SM-liiga has been closed, meaning that relegations and promotions take place only by the judgment of the board of the SM-liiga. The only such promotion took place instantly in 2000. Without the threat of relegation, the weaker clubs were supposed to be able to recuperate and improve. This had, however, a side effect: clubs with a losing record that had lost their hopes of reaching the playoffs often disposed of high-salary star players, letting down their supporters. To counteract this, the playoffs were expanded to the best 10 clubs each season from among the 13 total in the league.[citation needed]

The league changed its marketing name to just Liiga for the 2013–14 season, and introduced a new logo to match.[5]

Today, there are 15 teams in the league. Nowadays the SM-liiga is considered one of the strongest leagues in Europe along with the SHL and behind the KHL.[6]

Clubs edit

The team names are usually the traditional name of the club. All clubs are commonly known by the name of their team. Oy and Ab are the abbreviations for limited company in Finnish and Swedish respectively.

Team name Club's registered name Location Home venue,
ice dimensions,
capacity
2022–23 season standing (playoffs) Titles SM-liiga Titles overall
HIFK Oy HIFK Hockey Ab   Helsinki Helsinki Ice Hall,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
8,200
6th (4th) 4 7
HPK HPK Liiga Oy   Hämeenlinna Patria-areena,
58 m × 30 m (190 ft × 98 ft),
5,360
12th (did not qualify) 2 2
Ilves Ilves-Hockey Oy   Tampere Nokia Arena,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
12,700
2nd (3rd) 1 16
Jukurit Jukurit HC Oy   Mikkeli Ikioma Areena,
60 m × 30 m (197 ft × 98 ft),
4,200
11th (5th) 0 0
JYP JYP Jyväskylä Oy   Jyväskylä Synergia-areena,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
4,437
13th (did not qualify) 2 2
KalPa KalPa Hockey Oy   Kuopio Olvi Arena,
60 m × 30 m (197 ft × 98 ft),
5,300
5th (6th) 0 0
KooKoo KooKoo Hockey Oy   Kouvola Lumon arena,
60 m × 30 m (197 ft × 98 ft),
5,950
10th (8th) 0 0
Kärpät Oulun Kärpät Oy   Oulu Oulun Energia Areena,
60 m × 29 m (197 ft × 95 ft),
6,300
7th (9th) 8 8
Lukko Rauman Lukko Oy   Rauma Kivikylän Areena,
59 m × 29 m (194 ft × 95 ft),
4,500
3rd (4th) 1 2
Pelicans Lahden Pelicans Oy   Lahti Isku Areena,
58 m × 28 m (190 ft × 92 ft),
4,403
4th (2nd) 0 0
SaiPa Liiga-SaiPa Oy   Lappeenranta Kisapuisto,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
4,820
15th (did not qualify) 0 0
Sport Hockey-Team Vaasan Sport Oy   Vaasa Vaasa Arena,
58 m × 28 m (190 ft × 92 ft),
5,185
14th (did not qualify) 0 0
Tappara Tamhockey Oy   Tampere Nokia Arena,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
12,700
1st (1st) 12 19
TPS HC TPS Turku Oy   Turku Gatorade Center,
60 m × 28 m (197 ft × 92 ft),
10,500
9th (10th) 10 11
Ässät HC Ässät Pori Oy   Pori Isomäki Ice Hall,
58 m × 28 m (190 ft × 92 ft),
6,150
8th (7th) 2 3

Past participants edit

Renamed, still in SM-liiga edit

  • JyP HT and Jyp (now JYP)
  • Kiekkoreipas, Hockey-Reipas, and Reipas Lahti (now Pelicans)

Relegated prior to 2000 edit

Teams relegated were relegated to second-tier Mestis in the year shown, and are there today unless noted otherwise.

Withdrew from league edit

SM-liiga timeline edit

1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
75
76
76
77
77
78
78
79
79
80
80
81
81
82
82
83
83
84
84
85
85
86
86
87
87
88
88
89
89
90
90
91
91
92
92
93
93
94
94
95
95
96
96
97
97
98
98
99
99
00
00
01
01
02
02
03
03
04
04
05
05
06
06
07
07
08
08
09
09
10
10
11
11
12
12
13
13
14
14
15
15
16
16
17
17
18
18
19
19
20
20
21
21
22
22 23
HIFK
Ilves
Tappara
TPS
Ässät
Jokerit
Lukko
KOOVEE
Sport
FoPS
Kiekkoreipas Hockey-Reipas Reipas Lahti Pelicans
Kärpät
SaiPa
HPK
JyP HT JYP
KalPa
KooKoo
JoKP
Kiekko-Espoo Blues
TuTo
Jukurit

Format edit

 
Opening match of Tampere Deck Arena: Tappara vs. Ilves in December 2021
 
SM-liiga studio in the semifinals in 2006

Regular season: All teams play 60 matches, a quadruple round robin with extra local double rounds (i.e., every team plays four matches against every other team, plus two extra matches against two defined local opponents). Each match consists of 60 minutes regulation time, and in the event of a tie, the winner is decided by a three-on-three sudden death, 5-minute overtime. Ties after overtime are decided by a shootout, where each team has three shooters in the beginning. If the game is tied after three shooters, the shootout will be decided by individual shooters against one another until one scores and the other does not.

The 2010–11 season also saw the inaugural Talviklassikko outdoor game at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium. In the Helsinki derby, HIFK defeated Jokerit 4–3.[7] Since then, seven other outdoor matches have been played.

Scoring: A win in regulation time is worth three points, a win by sudden death overtime two points, a loss by sudden death overtime one point and a loss in regulation time zero points. Teams will be ranked by points, and teams tied by points are ranked by the greater number of wins in regulation.

Playoffs: The six best teams at the conclusion of regular season proceed directly to quarter-finals. Teams placing between seventh and tenth (inclusive) will play preliminary play-offs best-out-of-three – the two winners take the last two slots to quarter-finals. Starting from the season 2007–2008 all series since then are best-of-seven. Losers of the semi-finals play a bronze medal match. Teams are paired up for each round according to regular season results so that the highest-ranking team will play against the lowest-ranking, second highest against the second lowest, and so on. Higher-ranking teams play the first match at home, then by turns away, home, away, etc. Each playoff match consists of a 60-minute regulation time which in the event of a tie is followed by extra 20-minute periods of 5-on-5 sudden death overtime, in which the first team to score wins.

Scheduling: The regular season begins around mid-September. It takes a one-and-half-week break around the end of October to the beginning of November, when Team Finland competes in Karjala Tournament. There is a one-week Christmas break. During Winter Olympic years, a break is reserved for the Winter Olympic Games. The regular season is completed around mid-March and preliminary playoffs ensue almost immediately. The playoffs are completed by mid-April, so that all players are available for the World Championships.

Winner edit

 
The Kanada-malja

The winners of the playoffs receive gold medals and the Kanada-malja, the championship trophy of the Liiga. The winners of the regular season receive a trophy (Harry Lindbladin muistopalkinto) as well, though it is considered less prestigious than the bronze medals of the playoffs, similar to the difference in the National Hockey League between the status of the Stanley Cup and the Presidents' Trophy.

Previous winners edit

Previous SM-liiga winners edit

  • 1976 – TPS
  • 1977 – Tappara
  • 1978 – Ässät
  • 1979 – Tappara
  • 1980 – HIFK
  • 1981 – Kärpät
  • 1982 – Tappara
  • 1983 – HIFK
  • 1984 – Tappara
  • 1985 – Ilves
  • 1986 – Tappara
  • 1987 – Tappara
  • 1988 – Tappara
  • 1989 – TPS
  • 1990 – TPS
  • 1991 – TPS
  • 1992 – Jokerit
  • 1993 – TPS
  • 1994 – Jokerit
  • 1995 – TPS
  • 1996 – Jokerit
  • 1997 – Jokerit
  • 1998 – HIFK
  • 1999 – TPS
  • 2000 – TPS
  • 2001 – TPS
  • 2002 – Jokerit
  • 2003 – Tappara
  • 2004 – Kärpät
  • 2005 – Kärpät
  • 2006 – HPK
  • 2007 – Kärpät
  • 2008 – Kärpät
  • 2009 – JYP
  • 2010 – TPS
  • 2011 – HIFK
  • 2012 – JYP
  • 2013 – Ässät
  • 2014 – Kärpät
  • 2015 – Kärpät
  • 2016 – Tappara
  • 2017 – Tappara
  • 2018 – Kärpät
  • 2019 – HPK
  • 2020 – (cancelled)
  • 2021 – Lukko
  • 2022 - Tappara
  • 2023 - Tappara

All time statistical leaders edit

Top 10 regular-season scoring leaders edit

These are the top-ten regular season point-scorers in SM-liiga history. Figures are updated after each completed SM-liiga regular season.

  •  *  – current player

Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points

Points
Player Pos GP G A Pts
Janne Ojanen C 876 283 516 799
Arto Javanainen C 688 462 330 792
Ville Vahalahti LW 977 260 427 687
Kristian Kuusela LW 1107 280 458 738
Jari Lindroos C 649 230 432 662
Esa Keskinen C 478 215 443 658
Matti Hagman C 432 217 432 649
Risto Jalo C 594 275 409 646
Juha-Pekka Haataja RW 881 256 326 582
Raimo Helminen C 751 161 420 581

Top 10 regular-season scoring leaders (imports) edit

These are the top-ten regular season point-scorers for import players in SM-liiga history. Figures are updated after each completed SM-liiga regular season.

  •  *  – current player

Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points

Points
Player Pos GP G A Pts
Éric Perrin C 643 189 343 532
Otakar Janecký C 450 133 346 479
Aleksandr Barkov LW 518 135 281 416
Darren Boyko C 476 171 236 407
Jan Čaloun RW 298 145 230 375
Vjačeslavs Fanduļs C 476 148 211 359
Tomáš Záborský C 468 170 182 352
Allan Measures D 619 100 238 338
Shayne Toporowski RW 464 135 185 320
Stefan Öhman C 419 104 160 264

Top 10 regular-season games played (goaltender) edit

These are the top-ten most regular season games played by a goaltender in SM-liiga history. Figures are updated after each completed SM-liiga regular season.

  •  *  – current player
Leaderboard
Player GP
Eero Kilpeläinen 518
Pasi Kuivalainen 517
Jukka Tammi 510
Sakari Lindfors 471
Jussi Markkanen 471
Hannu Kamppuri 460
Ari-Pekka Siekkinen 447
Mika Lehto 404
Petri Vehanen 399
Teemu Lassila 388


Trophies edit

The following trophies are awarded by the SM-liiga:

In 1995, the trophies were named after Finnish hockey legends. Before that, trophies were named after sponsors.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Liiga tiedottaa: Karsinnat palaavat osaksi Liigan sarjarakennetta keväällä 2025". liiga.fi. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  2. ^ "Rankings". www.championshockeyleague.com. Retrieved 26 October 2023.
  3. ^ "IIHF Council: Kalervo Kummola". International Ice Hockey Federation. 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Kalervo Kummola" (in Finnish and Swedish). Parliament of Finland. Archived from the original on 27 May 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  5. ^ "SM-liiga muuttaa nimeään". mtvuutiset.fi (in Finnish). 9 August 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  6. ^ Helfrick, Eugene (3 July 2023). "Top 10 Best Ice Hockey Leagues". The Hockey Writers. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  7. ^ "Helsinki Winter Classic". International Ice Hockey Federation. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013.

External links edit