Just weeks after Riikka Sallinen retired from the Finnish national team, another key forward from this year’s Silver medal squad announced their retirement, with Linda Välimäki announcing on Twitter she is retiring from the game at age 29.
Born in Ylöjärvi, Välimäki came up through the youth system of nearby Ilves, joining the senior team in 2005, spending five seasons, winning two league titles and winning league honours for top forward, most goals and points, and playoff MVP in 2010. She joined Blues in 2010-11, spending another six seasons in Espoo, capturing another three SM-sarja titles, and winning league honours again in 2014, 2015 and 2017. She returned to captain Ilves in 2017, spending her final two pro seasons finishing as league runner-up. She leaves the SM-sarja not just a three time champion, but an eight-time All Star, a five-time scoring champion, a four-time top forward winner and two-time playoff MVP.
Välimäki joined the Naisleijonat junior team in 2006, first suiting up for the senior squad in 2008, her first major international tournament being the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where she won Bronze. She would suit up for three Olympics (2010, 2014, 2018), four World Championships (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019) and six Four Nations Cups (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017), bringing in Silver at the 2013 Four Nations and seven Bronzes from the 2010 and 2018 Olympics, 2015 and 2017 Worlds and 2010, 2016 and 2017 Nations Cup, with her final international game being Finland’s historic 2019 Silver medal (and very nearly Gold) on home ice, ironically played at her former home arena in Espoo.
As Finland has only won four IHLC titles in their history, Välimäki remarkably was part of two of those victories, participating in Finland’s first title in 2008 and their third title in August 2009. We wish Linda and her family the very best for her retirement and the things to come!