A legend with the club team Ilves Tampere, Honkavaara was one of the few bright spots in Finnish hockey during the 1940's and 50's.
In total he played 47 international games for Finland and scored 58 points, 46 goals plus 12 assists.
Always at or near the top of the Finnish league scoring, Honkavaara was a real opportunistic player in front of the goal. He had a very accurate shot. Twice, in 1950 and 1952, he was named as the best player in all of Finland. He won a total of seven Finnish league championships with Ilves Tampere, which led to the retiring of his jersey and number 7
Today he is honoured with the Aarne Honkavaara Trophy, which is given to the regular season goal scoring champion in SM-liiga. Past winners of the trophy include modern Finnish hockey legends Teemu Selanne and Matti Hagman.
A broken leg in 1953 all but ended his playing career, though he did try a couple of unsuccessful comebacks.
Honkavaara went on to become a successful coach, leading Ilves to three league titles. He was also the national team coach of Finland between 1954 and 1959.Aarne Honkavaara was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame when it was created in 1985.
Special thanks to Pat Houda
Update: Here's an interesting interview with Honkavaara courtesy of http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Hockey/English/Seeus/honkavaara.html
The Legend of Finnish Hockey: Aarne Honkavaara
In 1950, Aarne Honkavaara was the first player in the history of Finnish hockey to cross the Atlantic and join a Canadian team. He remained for about five months, and then unfortunately had to return to his home country for lack of a visa. Honkavaara had a brilliant hockey career in the Finnish national league (1943-1958). He played in 62 games and scored 204 goals. At that time, he was the star in this sport that was slowly becoming part of Finnish culture.
Meeting with Aarne Honkavaara
Amidst the sweaters hanging on display and between two windows in the Finnish Ice Hockey Museum and Hall of Fame, in Tampere, I met the legend of Finnish hockey, now 76 years old.
Mr. Honkavaara, what do you remember of your stay in Canada?
Smoothing his white hair and pausing for a few moments, with his forehead in his hand, he thinks back to a time so many years ago and replies:
"It was unforgettable. We played hockey three or four times a week, for two hours a day. The game was very physical and I was not used to the rough body checks that were allowed on the rink. Once I found myself face down on the ice after being hit into a metal net, my face taking the force of the blow. At that time, there was a huge difference in the style of the game, and the Canadians were especially known for being rough. My greatest regret is that I did not play in the regularly scheduled games since I did not have a visa."
During your stay, did you learn any techniques that were completely unknown in Finland?
To make up for the communication barrier, Honkavaara, who speaks a little English but needs an interpreter, stood up and used a hockey stick to demonstrate the "kick in the stick" technique:
"I learned this method with the Sarnia Sailors team, in Ontario. One of my fellow Canadian players taught me some techniques used in North America. When I got back to Finland, I showed my team members the "kick in the stick" technique. Now it is banned. After my stay in Canada, I really understood the game of hockey, a very physical sport. Canada was really a model for Finland as far as the game of hockey is concerned."
In your opinion, what is the difference between the way hockey was played in 1950 and the way it is played today?
"Hockey has changed a lot. It is faster now, with less emphasis on individuals. At that time, it was a game of skill, and spectators had more opportunity to admire the players and their distinctive styles."
What were your best moments as a hockey player?
"Playing in the World Championship with the Finnish national team and, of course, my trip to Canada."
Honkavaara gives a final nostalgic glance at the display windows of this small, quiet room that immortalized the great Finnish hockey players and in a way pays tribute to the Canadian influence.