Legendary Finnish forward Riikka Välilä continues to raise the ceiling of greatness. Fresh off a bronze medal with Team Finland at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Välilä, 44, re-signed with her SDHL club HV71, the team announced Wednesday.
”Playing is still nice and I have the feeling that I can become a better player,” Välilä told YLE Sport.
She also mentioned her desire to compete in the 2019 World Championships on home ice in Finland, a sentiment she also expressed to The Ice Garden back in March.
While Välilä’s place on the 2018-19 Naisleijonat team isn’t guaranteed, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility. She is a highly effective center who saw time on the power play and penalty kill at the Olympics. She averaged over 22 minutes on the ice throughout the six-game competition, more than international standouts like Marie-Philip Poulin, Hilary Knight, and Lyudmila Belyakova, to name just a few.
In club play last season, Välilä finished first in HV71 for scoring with 15 goals and 32 assists for a total of 47 points, putting her in the SDHL’s top ten. A native of Jyväskylä, Finland, her storied career includes two Olympic bronze medals, six World Championship bronze medals, five Finnish championships, and three European Championship gold medals. She was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2010 during her 10-year hiatus from hockey.