Finland’s Riikka Sallinen has been named to the 2022 class of the Hockey Hall of Fame. This makes Sallinen the first women’s hockey player from Finland and the first player to represent a European national team to enter the Hall.
Sallinen is the eighth women’s hockey player to be named to the HHOF. Kim St. Pierre (2020), Hayley Wickenheiser (2019), Jayna Hefford (2018), Danielle Goyette (2017), Angela Ruggiero (2015), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Cammi Granato (2010), and Angela James (2010) as the only women in the Hall.
This was the first year of Sallinen’s HHOF eligibility — she last played in the 2018-19 season, which included an appearance at an unforgettable final World Championship in Finland. She is already in the IIHF Hall of Fame and, given how long she was among the game’s very best there’s no doubt that she deserved to get in as a first-ballot HHOFer.
Despite missing a significant number of seasons and major tournaments to injury and a temporary retirement, Sallinen is one of our measuring sticks for greatness in women’s hockey. She won two Olympic bronze medals, six bronze medals at Worlds, and a silver at the 2019 Worlds in Finland. She retired at the age of 46, still a key player on the Finnish national team.
Sallinen is the only woman entering the HHOF in this year’s class. That, in and of itself, is part of a larger story. However, it should not take away from all that Sallinen accomplished and how much she has done for the game of hockey in her home country of Finland and in all of Europe. There are few players who were as respected by both their teammates and opponents as Sallinen was during her career. She was uncommonly brilliant. Sallinen was a generational talent, a truly elite center who made the players around her better.
She made the game itself better, too.