Jari Kurri, honored by the Los Angeles Kings with a Legends Night ceremony on Saturday afternoon, is currently the general manager of Finnish KHL outpost Jokerit, which plays in his home town of Helsinki. He was last in Southern California two years ago and caught both a Kings and Lakers game, and in his return to the area shared memories of having his rights traded to Los Angeles, and how he views the growth of the game in non-traditional markets.Jari Kurri, on having his rights traded to Los Angeles:
…the number one choice for me was to come back to play with Wayne in LA. It wasn’t really easy to get it done because Sather was really tough on that, to see me back with Gretz, but I’m happy that he understood my situation and he wished me luck and then ‘Jarri,’ he just said, ‘let’s go.’ But yeah, definitely with over six years here and the team we had, you know, hockey was getting so big here and that ’93 journey and almost, so close. So really highlights of my times here in LA.
Kurri, on the signs he sees of hockey growing in Southern California:
Like, today you come to the game and you look at the outside, the people wear their jerseys and the building’s done so well here and there’s two Stanley Cups in the rafters. And, you know, that’s pretty amazing for hockey in California. There’s players playing in the NHL right now that grew up in maybe in California here or somewhere in Phoenix. That tells how big hockey — long way to come. I’m happy to see that it’s a global game. Our team played in China four days ago. Beijing. So hockey’s getting bigger, it’s crazy. Who could have believed that you’d played pro hockey in China, in Beijing. But that story — hockey’s big.
Kurri, on his reaction to being traded to Los Angeles:
Well, it took a long time. We had to work to get the rights here and like I said, Sather was really not too happy about me playing with Wayne again but he kind of understood my wish and wanting to be reunited with Wayne so at the end I was very pumped up. I knew that after one year in Europe if I wanted to play high level hockey in the NHL I needed to come back after one year, otherwise I would have stayed in Europe. I am happy that it worked out. There were some other teams who were interested but LA was my number one choice, no question.
Kurri, on his mindset when he first arrived in Los Angeles:
Gretz was here, a lot of players that I had played with before, so I was well focused on hockey. I was very excited to get back to the NHL, back to a good team and they were building a good team and the chance to win something. Of course the city is unbelievable – I’m not used to the traffic and the amount of people – but I focused on hockey here. You know even on nice days, it’s sunny but you don’t get any time to go to the pool or beach. You go to rink-and-home, rink-and-home, airport and that’s the way life is in hockey at the time.
Kurri, on whether he had to buy shorts and t-shirts when he first moved to LA:
[laughs] I need more of that. You know what, when you play in Edmonton all those years you come to play against teams, you’re always looking forward to playing in LA and play the games because the weather is nice and there’s a good atmosphere here and the Forum was an unbelievable place to play. Those games, you can’t beat that feeling.