Into a New House
The brand new Hartwall Arena was finished in Ilmala in the spring of 1997 for the IIHF World Hockey Championships. The same year, Jokerit played Finnish Elite League games at the Arena. The new home did not ensure that success would continue, however.
The very first season in the home arena was difficult, even though on paper the team should have been champion material. The coaching career of Sakari Pietiläinen at Jokerit only lasted for a month. He was fired after losing a match against JyP and Lundmark was called in from Sweden to help out. Even Lundmark could not get things working, however. In the beginning of March 1998, Jokerit made their second coaching change of the season as Hannu Kapanen replaced Lundmark.
Kapanen saved what there was left to save and steered the team to a bronze medal in the Finnish Elite League. Kiekko-Espoo fell 8-0 in the bronze match at Hartwall Arena. The medal felt dim as a couple kilometers away HIFK was celebrating their first gold in 15 years at the former Jokerit home rink.
The next season was also somewhat disorganized for Jokerit. Kapanen was allowed to stay until February, when he was relieved of his duties. The replacement came from Sweden as Finn Timo Lahtinen moved in. Jokerit was ranked third for the regular season and faced SaiPa in the quarterfinals. Because of Figure Skating World Championships held at the Hartwall Arena, Jokerit handed the home-ice advantage over to SaiPa. Thus SaiPa got to play the first and second games in the quarterfinal series at home, and surprisingly won both games. Jokerit couldn’t shake off the pressure of having to win the third match and lost the game 4-5.