|Born: Tampere, Finland, July 3, 1968
A member of the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, few players have had the dual careers enjoyed by Teppo Numminen both in the NHL and for his country internationally.
He played in four Olympics (winning three medals), four IIHF World Championships, and another four Canada Cup/World Cup events. Indeed, if it was a top-level international event for Suomi during his two decades of play, Numminen was there. As well, his career included some 20 seasons in North America, and by the time he retired, in 2009, he had played 1,372 regular-season games in the NHL, more than any other European player.
With the previous induction of his father, Kalevi, as a Builder in 2011, the Numminens become the first father-son pair of inductees in IIHF Hall of Fame history.
Numminen was drafted 29th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1986, but he continued to play in Finland for two more years. He was part of the U20 team in 88 that won a bronze for Finland. He was named the tournaments Best Defenceman by the IIHF Directorate, and just a few weeks later he played for Finland at the Olympics in Calgary.
That team won an historic silver medal, the first time the nation had reached the podium in Olympic ice hockey. Teammates included a virtual whos who of the greatest Finnish players of the era Raimo Helminen, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Kari Eloranta, and Jarmo Myllys to name but a few.
Numminen moved to Winnipeg to begin his professional career in North America at the start of the following season, 1988-89. Tall and strong, he used strong positional play more than brute force to play successful defence. He was reliable and consistent, rarely missed games due to injury, and was a pillar on the blue line for the next 15 seasons, first with the Jets and then the Phoenix Coyotes when the team moved to Arizona.
Meanwhile, Numminen was equally a pillar on his national teams blue line. In both 1987 and 1991 he played at the World Championships and then the Canada Cup, and in 1996 he played in the World Championship and then the inaugural World Cup of Hockey.
Numminen was a lynchpin on the blue line even as he entered his thirties. He played at the first three Olympics with NHL player participation, in 1998, 2002, and 2006, winning a bronze in Nagano after Finland upset Canada in that medal game. In 2006, the 37-year-old played in the most important game of his life, the gold medal game of the Olympics against rivals Sweden. The Finns fell one goal short and settled for an impressive but heart-breaking silver.
This was the second close call for Numminen. He had also played against Canada in the championship game of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, but that turned out to be another one-goal loss. In both instances, though, the Finns had defeated all comers to get to those critical final games. Teppo Numminen is arguably one of the greatest international defencemen of the modern era.