From the brink of the grave to the championship
During the season-ending ceremony in the ballroom of the Helsinki School of Economics in March 1972, the hundreds of assembled Canada series team juniors made Aimo change his decision when stepping to the podium for his speech. The announcement of quitting became an announcement of continuing. Haapaniemi, the speech writer of Mäkinen had not written a speech for Mäkinen, because he was aware of the plan to quit.
Aimo had to improvise, which turned out to be the saving grace for Jokerit. The club was to go on. Haapaniemi, who had been promoted to Operative Manager sadly got into an argument with Aimo Mäkinen six years later and quit Jokerit. Haapaniemi took one year off from hockey and would later emerge again in HIFK where he coached the club to a silver medal in the Championships Series.
During the spring of 1972 a fusion between the clubs of Helsinki was bubbling under the surface. “What would be the name if Jokerit, HJK and Karhu-Kissat were to merge?” Jokerit dropped out of the plans to continue on their own, as HJK and Karhu-Kissat kept working on the fusion idea which later proved to be unsuccessful.
With the renewed interest of Aimo Mäkinen, the strengthening of Jokerit for the 1972-73 season went on. Lauri Mononen returned from Karhu-Kissat and defenceman Seppo Suoraniemi came to the club from HJK. Aimo also managed to grab Jorma Valtonen from Porin Ässät to be the goalie. With undoubtedly the best goalie in Finland at the time, Jokerit celebrated their first Finnish Championship in the spring of 1973.
But there was champion material among the skaters as well. On defence Ilpo Koskela had to work for two men from time to time and take breaks mostly during game pauses as, besides Öystilä and Suoraniemi, there wasn’t really a fourth quality defenceman in the team. The quality of the forwards is clear when the virtuoso-like skater and puck handler Lauri Mononen played on the third line almost all of the season.
Leppä-Suutinen-Arvaja and Hiiros-Turunen-Kyntölä were the first two lines to be broken only during during power play. The power play’s top scorer Turunen took Finnish Championships points scoring title, and Timo Sutinen came second in the table. The minimal playing time was so tough for Lauri Mononen that he attacked the Head Coach Matti Lampainen during the Championship celebration.