Longtime Naisleijonat forward Linda Välimäki has announced her retirement from hockey.
Välimäki, 29, played her entire career in Finland. One of the deadliest centers in Finland’s offensive arsenal, she leaves the game as an Olympic medalist with bronze medals in 2010 and 2018, two World Championship bronze medals and one silver, and five Finnish championships (two with Ilves, three with the Espoo Blues).
”As a player she showed you that you don’t have to be the fastest skater but you can still make things happen both offensively and defensively,” said Välimäki’s longtime teammate Minttu Tuominen to The Ice Garden. “She could create a scoring chance for herself or a teammate out of nowhere.”
She started her SM-Sarja (now Naisten Liiga) career with Y-Ilves in her hometown Ylöjärvi before moving to the club’s main Tampere location in 2005. Välimäki made her international debut a year later in 2006 with Team Finland’s U18 team. She spent seven years in Espoo with the Blues and Espoo United before returning to Tampere in 2017.
Välimäki sits sixth in SM-Sarja All-Time Regular Season Goals with 294 and seventh in All-Time Regular Season Total Points with 573. She went on maternity leave during the 2011-2012 season and still managed to put up an assist in her one game that year. Following the league’s change to Naisten Liiga in 2017, Välimäki’s blistering pace continued with 129 regular season points in 53 games. She finished her final season with 36 goals, her highest total since 2009-2010.
Over the course of her pro career she won four Katja Riipi Awards for Best Forward, four Tiia Reima Awards for Most Goals, five Marianne Ihalainen Awards for Most Points, and two Karoliina Rantamäki Awards for Playoff MVP.
Internationally, Välimäki represented Finland’s senior team at three Winter Olympics and four IIHF Women’s World Championships. She finished her career at the 2019 World Championships in Espoo, contributing to the team’s historic and hard-fought silver medal result. She played 167 games for the Naisleijonat.
Välimäki will be missed for more than her scoring prowess. Continued Tuominen, “She is very kind, determined, and calm in a way. She was always doing something, working on something. You couldn’t not like her as a person!”