Juha and Jussi

Jussi Markkanen signed to play in Finland (Jokerit, Rita’s team and they do have cheerleaders God love ‘em) next season, and his NHL career “may” be over. Markkanen was drafted by the Oilers in 2001 summer with the idea of being Tommy (“Gun”) Salo’s backup for 01-02. It took him some time to establish himself, but according to Sports Forecaster “While Markkanen struggled in training camp last season, he became entrenched as the Oilers second stringer by mid-season. He’s a sound positional goaltender, always ready for the first shot. He’s also capable of taking over the lead role for small stretches. Markkanen must now work on handling the puck and controlling his rebounds. While the Finnish netminder won’t steal minutes from Salo anytime soon, he’ll continue to provide stability whenever the No. 1 man has the night off.” (2002)

Markkanen was traded to the Rangers for D Brian Leetch in the summer of 2003 (it was one of those trade for a UFA and get a higher draft pick deals) and then traded back to Edmonton in March 2004 for F Dwight Helminen, G Steve Valiquette and a 2nd round pick in the 2004 draft.

He was a good goalie for the Oilers and will be remembered most for quality play in relief of Dwayne Roloson in the 2006 SCF. He is/was the latest in a pretty long line (Siltanen, Hagman, Kurri, Tikkanen, there have been a few) of Finns that played some important roles on the Oilers. I love watching the Finns and am pleased that Joni Pitkanen will continue the tradition beginning this fall.

The player in the photo is Juha Widing. Although a Swede he was born in Finland and to my generation he was one of the first European players we’d heard of in junior, the minors or the NHL. Widing was interesting because of his name (it was pronounced “Yoo-Haa Veeeding”) and because he was skilled, skilled enough to be the best player on the LA Kings for several seasons. We’d usually see LA maybe once a year and since Widing was the best player he was noticed (plus the uniforms drew attention to anyone who had the puck and Widing had it some).

In the summer of 1974, LA General Manager Larry Regan said “If ever we have a superstar in LA, it’ll be Whitey because of his size, skating ability and the fact that he does score goals.”

Widing and his family came over to Western Canada in the mid-1960s in order for him to play against the best competition and he landed with the Brandon Wheat Kings. By all accounts he had a pretty difficult time (he definitely would have been a target in that era) but put up good numbers and was regarded as a good prospect by the parent New York Rangers (this was before the draft during the sponsorship era). Among his career accomplishments:

  • MJHL Second All-Star Team (1967).
  • Central Hockey League Second All-Star Team (1969).
  • NHL debut October 12, 1969 for NYR versus the Bruins in Boston.
  • Loaned to Port Arthur (TBJHL) by Brandon (MJHL) for Memorial Cup playoffs, March, 1964.
  • Traded to LA Kings by NY Rangers with Real Lemieux for Ted Irvine, Feb. 28, 1970
  • Signed as a free agent by Edmonton (WHA), June, 1978.
  • Traded to Indianapolis (WHA) by Edmonton (WHA) for Bill Goldsworthy, June, 1978.

Widing had health problems after his NHL (575gp, 144-226-370) and WHA career (71gp, 18-24-42 with the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA in 1977-78), the cause of which is well known in the hockey industry but has never been made public. He suffered a heart attack on his farm near Winfield, British Columbia and died in Kelowna in 1984 at the age of 37. Some sources have him dying in Vancouver, but I believe the above information to be correct.

Ulf Sterner is often mentioned, Borje Salming was certainly the first great European NHL player, but in the middle of that was a Swede from Finland named Juha Widing who was a player.

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7 Responses to "Juha and Jussi"

  1. jon says:

    I’ll miss Jussi, but at the same time I think we shall see him in the NHL again, albeit not with the Oilers.

    I know the whole Penner thing has been beaten to death, but I was wondering LT, would you prefer the exchange of our 2008 1st, 2nd and 3rd for Penner or something akin to Torres, Smid, and Pouliot plus picks for Kovalchuk? I ask because that seems to be the rumour du jour and it makes sense that if Penner’s offer sheet is matched by Burke that Lowe will follow that up immediately with another offer sheet or trade.

  2. Lowetide says:

    jon: I just don’t think we’re one player away, so all of these moves are robbing Peter to pay Paul. I love Kovalchuk, but the price tag is so large and the money already committed to Souray, Hemsky, etc means the roster will be top heavy moving forward. The three players you mention are all pretty good bets to cover their salary this season.

  3. garagehero says:

    test

  4. garagehero says:

    Lowetide, you stated that “Widing had health problems…the cause of which is well known in the hockey industry but has never been made public”. You seem to know what these problems were…please tell me. I am from L.A. and when I was a kid “Whitey” Widing , along with Butch Goring, Rogie Vachon and Danny Maloney( the greatest fighter in NHL history)was one of my favorite players and it just killed me when all of a sudden, from one year to the next, he seemed to have lost his skills. So please Lowetide….what were the “health problems”….that would give me some closure.

  5. strong says:

    Hi My dad is Juha Widing. I would like to say it is nice to see people still talking about him. He did die from his health problems, in Kelowna B.C. . I am the youngest of four boys. I like to here stories about Juha if Anyone has any. Thank you.

  6. garagehero says:

    I have several of his hockey cards from his playing days with the Kings. He ceratinly was one of my favorites. He had really long hair that would go flying ( this was when most players didnt wear helmets)when he broke out down the ice. He was a finesse player, no doubt. He had 70 points one year, and that was the Kings record for a while, until Dionne came along, I think. I managed to get a vintage Kings jersey and put his name and number,15, on it. What a great guy he was.His name was actually pronounced, Yoo-Hah Veeding, but the announcers pronounced it,Wy-Deeng, so it was no time before everyone was calling him, “Whitey” Widing. Real Kings fans would yell his name when he got the puck…YOO-HAH!!!….YOO-HAA!!! Great memories at the old L.A. Forum, yes indeed.

  7. strong says:

    Juha Had a few good years with the LA Kings 4 or 5. Its to bad more people do not remember him as one of the first European players ever to make into the NHL. His WHL points with the Wheat Kings were incredible scoring 70 goals his last year. He a had a scoring touch as my mother would say, But I on the other had All swedish no Finnish.

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