IIHF Hall Of Fame Induction 2023

Kimmo Leinonen


Born Tampere, Finland, August 30, 1949

By the time Kimmo Leinonen started working for the IIHF in 1995, he had already had nearly a quarter of a century’s worth of experience in hockey, both in Finland and around the world. His first job was back in 1971 with Ilves, as its marketing manager, and from there he moved up to the Finnish League’s front office. For the next seven years, he worked with Koho Sports in Germany and Canada, giving Leinonen his first taste of international hockey.

In this capacity, he served top-level players at the IIHF World Championships and Olympics, as well as in the NHL, before returning to the Finnish league. During these years, he was also a scout for the New York Rangers and the NHL’s Central Scouting office for Europe, and he worked both as a producer and colour commentator for Hockey Night in Finland from 1988 until joining the IIHF.

In all, Leinonen was the IIHF’s PR and Marketing Director for 12 years, 1995-2007, leaving his position to assume the duties of general secretary for Finland’s historic co-hosting with Sweden of the 2012 and 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. But to call Leinonen “only” the IIHF’s PR and Marketing Di- rector is to sell short what he did for the organization. He was the technical delegate to four Olympic Games (1998-2010) and to 14 World Championships during this time. He was part of various Organizing Committees to men’s and women’s tournaments and has been tournament chairman to more than 40 IIHF events from 1995 up to the present.

Handing the Paul Loicq Award to Leinonen is allowing the IIHF to celebrate the person who helped create the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. Although the federation began in 1908 and had overseen international hockey for nearly 90 years, there had been no means to honour and acknowledge the greats of the game until Leinonen and the late Walter Bush, Jr., a Hall of Famer himself (2009), came up with the concept.
And it was not the first time he had found the past being overlooked by the present. Indeed, in 1984, Leinonen had co-founded the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, where so many of Suomi’s greatest stars have been honoured—Jari Kurri, Teemu Selanne, Emma Terho, and Saku Koivu among the many honourees over the last four decades. The Finnish Hall came out of another Kimmo co-creation—the Finnish Hockey Museum, which he had helped establish in 1978 as a means of celebrating the game in his homeland.

Indeed, Kimmo not only brought business savvy to the IIHF; he brought with him a deep respect for the game’s history, for those men and women who made the game what it is today, in Finland, North America, and in every country big and small that is a member of the ever-growing IIHF family. Leinonen understood the importance of the past as a means to appreciate and understand the present.

Leinonen came by his love of the game honestly, starting as a player when he was a boy, and starring on club teams in Toronto, with a local team called, appropriately, the Lions. He coached in minor hockey throughout the 1970s and was team manager for the Ilves women’s team in the early ’90s, when they won three successive championships.

All of his achievements at home led him to be inducted into the Finnish Hall of Fame in 2011, and the respect and reputation he earned over the years has naturally led to several appointments of further note, including becoming a member of the board at Jokerit and Ilves as well as the pre-eminent Bigboys Sports Club.

A TV producer, an author, an historian, and an administrator, Leinonen has dedicated his life to hockey in a wide range of capacities for over half a century.