Welcome to the Official Site of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Facebook of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Twitter of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Instagram of the Philadelphia Flyers Official LinkedIn of the Philadelphia Flyers Official DeskSite of the Philadelphia Flyers Flyer Wire
  • RSS

Kapanen set to write new chapter in family legacy

Son of former Flyer, Sami Kapanen, expected to be taken high in this year's draft

Wednesday, 06.18.2014 / 10:00 AM ET / News
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com
Share with your Friends

Kapanen set to write new chapter in family legacy

On a certain level most children grow up idolizing their parents and would want to follow in the footsteps of their mom or dad when it comes to finding a career.

Sometimes that career is being a doctor, a teacher or an electrician. In the case of Kasperi Kapanen, it's playing hockey.

Most hockey fans in North America know about the Howes, the Hextalls and the Sutters; in professional hockey in Finland, the Kapanen name is just as big.

"It's a big thing," Kasperi said. "It's a burden to carry that name, but I like it."

Kasperi made hockey history in Finland last season when he made his debut in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, as a 16-year-old. In 13 games with KalPa he had four goals, and he also got into four playoff games.

Now 17, he played all season with KalPa in 2013-14, totaling seven goals and 14 points in 47 games. He's No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft.

"He plays a mature two-way game," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He has great offensive instincts, including an explosive, surprising shot. His moves are also surprising and very quick. He makes a lot of trouble for opponents. Skating, mobility and physical strength all are very good for a 17-year-old. He has the tools to become very good."

Helping groom him into a top prospect the past two seasons has been one of his teammates -- his father Sami Kapanen, 40.

"It was extremely fun," Sami said of playing with his son. "It was a great year to be on the same team. It was something that we were dreaming of in the past years. I was hoping that I could keep playing and have that opportunity to play on the same team with my son. We got to fulfill that dream the season before … this year was an extra plus because we got the whole season on the same team."

Though KalPa finished last in the 14-team league, Sami saw his time playing with Kasperi as the perfect way to end his professional career. He announced his retirement when the season ended.

"I think on a personal level that has to be one of the most memorable moments," Sami said of playing with Kasperi. "The first game, the chance to play on the same line, scoring goals in the same game; those kinds of things, it's really hard to put into words and describe to people how you feel, how proud you are in those moments when you get to play with your own son."

It was an up-and-down season for Kasperi. A shoulder injury kept him from Finland's run to the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, he didn't produce offensively as much as he hoped with KalPa, and then he had two points in five games as Finland was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the World Under-18 Championship on home soil.

However, the time he got to have with his father was a highlight.

"It was special," Kasperi said. "Just to see him in the locker room, just being there was a big thing for me and probably a bigger thing for him. Playing with him, it was a little bit weird at first. But now that I think about it, it was really a good experience and a dream come true for both of us."

Kasperi said watching his father helped him understand the competitiveness it takes to make it at the professional level. The biggest lesson, though, was remembering that playing hockey for a living is a lot of fun.

"Just enjoy the game," Kasperi said. "I know how to do everything else. That's one thing you have to remember to do, enjoy the game. I love to play hockey and that's what I'm best at doing. That's one thing I'll never forget."

He also learned to manage the expectations that come with having the name Kapanen on the back of your jersey.

Hannu Kapanen, the family patriarch, spent nine seasons in Finland's top league; in 300 games he had 141 goals, 321 points and 420 penalty minutes. He also represented Finland at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics, the 1976 Canada Cup and the 1976 World Championship.

"He was a smart, crafty, skilled player with a bit of an edge too," said Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who grew up in Finland. "He was a national team-caliber player earlier and a star in the elite league. My hometown Kuopio and [Kapanen's hometown] Joensuu had a big rivalry, and Hannu was the best player in those games."

After retiring, Hannu coached in Finland at the professional and junior level; the highlight came when he led Finland to the gold medal on home soil at the 1998 World Junior Championship.

By then, Hannu's son Sami had started his professional career. Sami Kapanen was selected by the Hartford Whalers in the fourth round (No. 87) of the 1995 NHL Draft. He was 22 when he made his NHL debut in the 1995-96 season and already had five seasons of Liiga experience, as well as an Olympic bronze medal from the 1994 Albertville Games and a gold medal from the 1995 World Championship.

FTV: Watch Sami Kapanen's final media availability where he announces his retirement from the NHL in 2008.

"He had character and was an intense competitor," said Kekalainen, who was a teammate of Sami's with KalPa in 1991-92, Sami's second Liiga season.

Sami went on to play 831 NHL games with the Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers, totaling 189 goals and 458 points. He had five 20-goal seasons and helped the Hurricanes reach the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. He also played for Finland at the 1998 and 2002 Olympics.

He succeeded in raising the stature of the Kapanen name, but it wasn't always easy.

"I think it's hard," Sami said. "It's something that people don't realize. The next generation, they have probably some advantages of having the information from the older generation, the feedback and the understanding of the game. Maybe they get some opportunities or they get to see some of the things other people don't get to see behind the scenes. But it's also high expectations. You're scrutinized, people looking into you and what you're doing a lot more closely than other kids. At a young age, the last name has weight. It's not always easy. The expectations can be heavy.

"If you can handle it I think it makes you stronger. … You know what it's like to play under that pressure and handle the expectations of other people. It can be good, but it's a hard learning process and sometimes not always that much fun."

In 2008 Sami returned to Finland to play for KalPa, the team he purchased in 2003. He retired after two seasons, but returned in 2011; a bonus was two seasons in the lineup with his son.

Kasperi has seen and heard much about his father's career, and also heard tales from his grandfather's playing days.

"Back in the day I think hockey was a bit different," Kasperi said of stories from Hannu. "You hear stories of guys smoking cigars between games. It's rough, but it's pretty funny to hear."

Kasperi has the chance now to write his own stories. It starts this summer, where he and Sami are spending the summer in the southern New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia working out. It's an area he considers home; he was six when Sami was traded to the Flyers in 2003 and 12 when the family returned to Finland.

"I have my best memories from there," Kasperi said.

Kasperi has two years left on his contract with KalPa and would like to fulfill it, but said right now his aim is to bring the Kapanen name back to North America.

"Maybe someday I'll come back to the Finnish league and make a name for myself there," he said. "Now I'm starting to focus on the NHL and making myself a career there."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


C. Giroux 78 22 45 -8 67
W. Simmonds 81 32 28 -7 60
B. Schenn 80 26 33 3 59
J. Voracek 73 11 44 -5 55
S. Gostisbehere 64 17 29 8 46
S. Couturier 63 11 28 8 39
M. Raffl 82 13 18 9 31
M. Read 79 11 15 -5 26
M. Streit 62 6 17 -1 23
S. Laughton 71 7 14 -2 21
S. Mason 23 19 10 .918 2.51
M. Neuvirth 18 8 4 .924 2.27
Privacy Policy | AdChoices | California Privacy Rights | Contact Us | Advertise Employment | NHL.com Terms of Use

Philadelphiaflyers.com is the official Web site of the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia Flyers and philadelphiaflyers.com are trademarks of Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.