Forward Matti Hagman, the first Finnish born and trained player to ever play in an NHL game, passed away in Espoo yesterday at the age of 61, after a long illness.
Hagman, who began his pro career with HIFK in his hometown of Helsinki, was drafted in both the NHL and WHA draft in 1975. Hagman opted to join the Boston Bruins in 1976, spending two seasons before being purchased by the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques in 1977. Hagman spent half a season before returning for two years with HIFK, before joining the red-hot Edmonton Oilers, playing alongside Hall of Famers Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson for two seasons before injuries cut his NHL tenure short. Hagman remained with HIFK for another seven seasons, with stops at Reipas and Landshut of the German league on the way. Hagman won the Liiga scoring title four times, winning the league title in 1983 and joining the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.
Internationally, Hagman first joined the senior Finnish team at the 1975 World Championships, suiting up for four Worlds, three Canada Cups, and the 1976 Olympic Games, and despite failing to medal, he did earn a spot on the Canada Cup All-Star Team in 1976, finishing with six points in five games, despite Finland’s last-place finish in the tournament. His international legacy continues to this day, however, as his son Niklas has captured Olympic Silver (2006) and Bronze (2010), along with a World-Cup runner-up title (2004) while suiting up for the Leijonat.
Our condolences go out to the Hagman family, and the hockey world at large, in mourning the loss of arguably Finland’s first true international star.