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Tuukka Rask becomes minority owner of Finnish team Ilves Tampere

The struggling club was Rask’s team when he was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 2005. Now he’s helping save them from what could have been their demise.

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In addition to backstopping the Bruins this season, Tuukka Rask can add “team owner” to his resume.

The Tampere Lynx, or ‘Ilves Tampere,’ are a team in the Finnish Liiga, or the top level of hockey in Finland. Tampere is a really cool city about two hours north of Helsinki; it is home to the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, as well as Ilves and Tappara, two teams in the Liiga. Tappara currently sit at the top of the standings, with 104 points, but Ilves are down in 12th, with relegation looming; they’re only three points out of last place.

Ilves are not only the current home of former Bruins goaltender Hannu Toivonen - he’s played for them for two seasons now. They’re also the team that helped Tuukka Rask grow into the goalie he’s become over the last ten seasons of North American hockey. He appeared in 83 games for Ilves over the course of three years, from age 17-19, at which point he immediately made the jump to the AHL.

An old Ilves goalie mask from the Finland Hockey Hall of Fame in Tampere.

The club have been in some financial trouble lately, and this past Thursday, the owner signed the papers to sell the team, which is something fans have apparently been hoping for for a while. The new owners had to pay about two million Euros in debts and obligations, and will be able to start the next season fresh.

One of the new owners will be Tuukka Rask.

“I wanted to get involved to help my old team,” Rask told Finnish news outlet Ilta-Sanomat. “I believe this will be a good thing where we can start with a clean slate.”

Rask hasn’t decided exactly how much his contribution will be, but he is estimating it will be about 5-10% of the ownership stake, corresponding to about a 100,000 - 200,000 Euro buy-in. He will join new CEO, Ilves legend Risto Jalo, and a group of fans and supporters in buying and rehabbing the finances of the team they love.

On a personal note, I had the great fortune to attend an Ilves game in Tampere last season. The building, known as the Hakametsä, is an old-school arena from the 60s that seats about 7,500 people. The fans are knowledgable and friendly; their cheering section is small but raucous; and the history is amazing. They haven’t won a championship since 1985, but they’re the most decorated Finnish club (a stat which includes all their junior teams and their womens’ team). It’s very cool that Rask is stepping up to help keep his former club and all their history alive.

(thanks to Iikku for translation help!)

The Hakametsä, December 2015.