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SM-liiga
SM-liiga logo.png
Formerly SM-sarja
Sport Ice hockey
Founded 1975
Commissioner Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen
Motto "Drama and clatter"
Inaugural season 1975
No. of teams 14
Country(ies) Finland Finland
Most recent champion(s) JYP
Most championships Ilves (16)
TV partner(s) URHOtv, Nelonen Sport Pro
Official website sm-liiga.fi (English)
Related competitions Mestis, Suomi-sarja

The SM-liiga is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. As of 2009, it is ranked by the IIHF as the second strongest league in Europe[1]. It was constituted in 1975 to replace the SM-sarja, which was fundamentally an amateur league. The SM-liiga has an agreement of cooperation with the Finnish ice hockey federation Suomen Jääkiekkoliitto. SM is a common abbreviation for Suomen mestaruus, "Finnish championship".

At the moment, there are 14 teams. The SM-liiga was closed in 2000 so that no team can be relegated to or promoted from the lower leagues without approval of the board of the SM-liiga. The board have committed themselves to promote the first winner of Mestis (the second highest competition) that meets certain standards.

Contents

History

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.

One of the main problems was that the governing of the SM-sarja was based on the annual meeting of the Finnish ice hockey federation Suomen Jääkiekkoliitto, where all important issues were decided by vote. Since all clubs registered under the Jääkiekkoliitto 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 proved arduous, even impossible. The new SM-liiga was to be run by a board consisting of its participating clubs only, and have an agreement of cooperation with the Jääkiekkoliitto.

The SM-sarja was also outdated on its own, as it was run according to amateur principles.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.

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.

These changes led to a transition towards professional ice hockey, probably best called 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.

One more major, and in the fans' point of view, the most noteworthy enhancement, was the playoffs. Gate receipts and other income from playoffs were pooled and distributed as a placement bonus. Although play-offs were the standard way of determining the champions in North American professional sports, at the time they were not common in Europe.

The SM-liiga was established rather hastily. The required changes were initiated in the 1974 annual meeting, and the SM-liiga was launched for the season 1975-76. 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 last ten years.

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 play-offs. 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.

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 (and reached 56 in 2000-01), and the SM-liiga was expanded to 12 clubs for the season 1988-89. The general popularity of ice hockey strengthened through international success of the Finnish national 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 the modern Finnish top-level ice hockey range of thought there are two types of clubs: those that have the resources to maintain a business-like professional ice hockey club, and deserve participation in SM-liiga - and the others that do not. Since the 2000-2001 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 (out of 13).

Clubs

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 short for limited company, Oyj public limited company and Ry association respectively.

JYP
HPK
'SaiPa
•'HIFK
TPS
Team name Club's registered name Location Home venue, capacity 2008-09 standing Championships
Blues Blues Hockey Oy Espoo Barona Areena, 7,000 2nd 0
HIFK HIFK Hockey Ab Helsinki Helsinki Ice Hall, 8,100 7th 6
HPK HPK-Edustusjääkiekko Ry Hämeenlinna Ritarihalli, 5,360 3rd 1
Ilves Ilves-Hockey Oy Tampere Tampereen jäähalli, 7,800 8th 16
Jokerit Jokerit HC Oyj Helsinki Hartwall Areena, 13,665 4th 6
JYP JYP Jyväskylä Oy Jyväskylä Synergia-areena, 4,618 1st 1
KalPa KalPa Hockey Oy Kuopio Kuopion jäähalli, 5,225 6th 0
Kärpät Oulun Kärpät Oy Oulu Oulun Energia Areena, 6,614 5th 5
Lukko Rauman Lukko Oy Rauma Äijänsuo Arena, 5,400 11th 1
Pelicans Lahden Pelicans Oy Lahti Isku Areena, 5,098 9th 0
SaiPa Liiga-SaiPa Oy Lappeenranta Lappeenrannan jäähalli, 4,847 14th 0
Tappara Tamhockey Oy Tampere Tampereen jäähalli, 7,800 13th 15
TPS HC TPS Turku Oy Turku Turkuhalli, 11,820 10th 10
Ässät HC Ässät Pori Oy Pori Porin jäähalli, 6,500 12th 2*

Past participants

List of clubs that have been renamed or relegated:

  • FoPS were relegated in 1977 and are today FPS
  • JoKP were relegated in 1992 and are today Jokipojat
  • JyP HT are today JYP
  • Kiekko-Espoo are today Blues
  • Kiekkoreipas, Hockey-Reipas, Reipas are previous names of Pelicans
  • KooKoo were relegated in 1990
  • KOO-VEE were relegated 1980
  • Sport were relegated in 1976
  • TuTo were relegated in 1996

Format

Regular season: all teams play 58 matches, a quadruple round robin with extra local double rounds (every team plays four matches against every other team, plus two or four extra matches against defined local opponents). Each match consists of 60 minutes regulation time, and in the event of a tie, winner is decided by a four-on-four 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.

Scoring: A win in regulation time is worth three points, a win by sudden death overtime two points and loss by sudden death overtime one point. Teams will be ranked by points, and teams tied by points are ranked by goal differential. Teams tied by goal differential as well are ranked by number of goals scored.

Play-offs: 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 play-off match consists of a 60-minute regulation time which in the event of a tie is followed by extra 20-minute periods of sudden death overtime, in which the first team to score wins.

Scheduling: The regular season starts around mid-September. It takes a two-week break around the end of October to the beginning of November, when Team Finland plays in a European competition. There is a two-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 play-offs ensue almost immediately. The play-offs are completed by mid-April, so that all players are available for the World Championships.

Winners

The Kanada-malja

The winners of the playoffs receive gold medals and the Kanada-malja, the championship trophy of the SM-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.

Trophies

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.

References

External links


Simple English

SM-liiga is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. It is generally thought of as one of the top leagues in Europe. It started in 1975. SM is a common abbreviation for Suomen mestaruus, "Finnish championship".








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