Blue Jackets hire 1st European as NHL GM

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - The Columbus Blue Jackets hurried to make history.

Just more than 24 hours after firing Scott Howson, they announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen of Finland as the first European to be a general manager in the National Hockey League.

Kekalainen, director of amateur scouting with the St. Louis Blues 2002-10, held a news conference Wednesday in his native Finland at the same time the Blue Jackets Blue Jackets held theirs in Ohio.

“One of my dreams since I hung up my skates has been to be a GM of an NHL team sometime. Now that dream has come true,” Kekalainen said in Helsinki at the home arena of the Jokerit club, where he’s been GM since 2010. “I’m really happy and pleased, even proud, that I’ve been give this chance.”

The 46-year-old, who played sparingly in the NHL, worked closely with Columbus director of hockey operations John Davidson with the Blues. When the Blues hired Doug Armstrong as general manager in 2010 instead of Kekalainen, Kekalainen returned to Finland to take over as GM of Jokerit in Finland’s top league.

“Jarmo and I have a relationship that goes back a number of years, most recently with the St. Louis Blues organization where he was an assistant general manager and in charge of the amateur draft,” Davidson said. “I look at Jarmo as a person who has a world of experience. Thirty percent of the players in our league are European. He’s very intelligent about the world of hockey, not only in Europe but also in North America.”

Kekalainen’s current team is in first place. So badly did Kekalainen want to return to the NHL as a GM, that he had an unwritten agreement with the club’s owner that he could be let out of his contract if a GM job developed in the NHL. He is expected to arrive in Columbus as soon as travel and visa issues are resolved.

“I’m humbled but at the same time have faith in myself. I believe I’ve deserved this opportunity through my own hard work,” he said. “Now I’m going to roll up my sleeves and go there and build a team out of the Columbus Blue Jackets that seriously aims to win the Stanley Cup.”

He’ll face a number of challenges.

Under Howson, the Blue Jackets made the playoffs in 2008-09 but have fallen to the depths of the league since. They had the worst record in the league a year ago, have a record of making a mess of things at the draft and in trades. Attendance has fallen; there are published reports that the club sold between 7,000 and 8,000 season tickets this season.

The Blue Jackets are 4-7-2 in this lockout-shortened season and leave Wednesday to begin a six-game Western swing that starts in Los Angeles on Friday night.

The club does have three first-round picks in this summer’s amateur draft.

“We feel here that we know how important the draft is, especially with a deep draft and this one is a deep draft,” Davidson said. “He’ll become a major voice regarding the upcoming draft. That certainly played into it. That’s a part of it, but it’s certainly not all of it.”

Howson, a 52-year-old Toronto native, was hired as executive vice president and general manager on June 15, 2007. He took the place of Doug MacLean, who had guided the franchise from its inception, through its first NHL season in 2000-01 and the next five campaigns.

He was in charge in 2008-09, when the Blue Jackets went a franchise-best 41-31-10 and made the playoffs with star forward Rick Nash and Calder Trophy-winning goalie Steve Mason leading the way.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • Hall of Fame Inductees, KISS, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley speak at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, April, 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    KISS rocker Gene Simmons touts 1 percent life: ‘It’s fantastic’

  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama