This is how Finland’s mythical “hockey tractor” was born – Jukka Holtari tells about JYP’s rise to the top of Finland and a prediction from Jukka Rautakorve

This is how Finlands mythical hockey tractor was born

JYP’s ice hockey tractor and other hot topics of the SM league are discussed in Puhee’s Ice Hockey Tour. Next broadcast on Friday 23.9. at 6 p.m. Listen to the broadcast here.

The birth of the hockey tractor. Jukka Holtari, when and how did it happen in Jyväskylä?

– There is no precise observation. A tractor in hockey is a bit like a mythical creature, a yeti in the Himalayan mountains. They are imaginations.

That image is still strongly associated with JYP.

– I feel a kind of benevolent devilry in it, a positive mockery. A consistently reliable all-wheel drive performer. And it was always said that “you guys have kept the old squad together”, but in reality the squad players changed quite a lot every season. Still, the image remained that the Jyppian way of working, it sucks and produces results. A Northern saying fits this perfectly: envy is earned, pity is free.

Who invented calling JYP a tractor?

– Yes Kari Tyni surely it was behind it, no one else could train like that. Almost juhajun-like performance. And ‘s editor Jussi Saarinen was strongly associated with it then.

JYP tractor characteristics, what are they?

– If we look at it from a longer perspective, one of the significant features has been the courage to do our own thing. The promotion to the league took place in 1985. After that, for 33 seasons, JYP was a trendsetter for how to bring their own coaching talents to the track.

The first thing that comes to mind is Erkka Westerlund from elsewhere…

– Yes. Then they come Hannu Aravirta, Kari Savolainen, Pekka Tapani, Mika Saarinen, Matti Alatalo, Risto Dufva, Jyrki Aho, Marko Virtanen and Lauri Merikivi. It has been an open-minded and courageous development of Finnish hockey. Every coaching decision is uncertain at the time of making it. Afterwards, people can then wise up that “it was obvious that Pertti will succeed as head coach”.

As a sports director, you were one of the main designers of the tractor for a long time, or you could say the main mechanic. Surely your handprint can still be seen on it?

– Oh, that’s a much longer story. I don’t think I was the main mechanic, but a good work partner Jukka Seppänen. JYP is almost behind 40 years of league history. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be a part of it.

However, with your long experience, you surely know how that successful tractor was put together?

– There have been many stages. At the beginning of the 2000s, the owners paid off old debts, the budget was probably the smallest in the SM league. It was sometimes a grueling time, when the tractor did not accelerate at all.

So how did the acceleration work out?

– In 2006, JYP launched a mission. There were three options. Either we completely put the straws in the bag, we go to Mesti, or we really start betting on being successful in the league. Tyni, Seppänen and Dufva then got the tractor to accelerate. It could be summed up that in the first decade of the millennium JYP strived for good and in the 2010s it strived to remain good.

And managed to stay good for a really long time.

So. I’ve been thinking a lot about that yuppieness. It’s a certain kind of institution. Not exactly religion or marriage, but it has had certain characteristics of an institution. The community is always bigger than the individual. The club is always the biggest. And in difficult situations, we wondered how the club would survive this. When a tight spot came, a collective and creative ability to solve problems was almost always found within the group.

At least a place in the semifinals, that was more the rule than the exception for JYP for years. In the late 2010s, that rule was repealed. The tractor broke down. Or was it finished?

– First of all, it belongs to this sport. In competitive sports, that crappy season is always lurking around the corner. Quite a few times we were able to avoid it or delay it. But it is inevitable. In December 2018, I announced to the team in the locker room that this will stay here for me. So I’m not the right person to comment on the end of that decade.

Now a new building is being built in Jyväskylä. What does the 2022 JYP tractor look like to you?

– I see and believe that the guys will get the job done once again on the track. I have known Jukka for a long time. Ability and willingness are in place.

Jukka Rautakorpi is a man who looks like JYP, I think there is no doubt about that? He started his career as a coach precisely in Jyväskylä.

– Yeah. Is. I remember when Jukka left JYP for Tappara (in 1995). Juka’s home is in Tampere, but another spiritual home is certainly in Jyväskylä.

At the beginning, it looked like the diesel engine driven by Rautakorvin and Ville Nieminen was coughing a bit.

– You should remember that in some cities you can never start the machine if you have never been to the top there. But that measures the organization’s strong sports culture. Yes, that tractor will start from there. And don’t forget Heiska!

Oh yes, Mikko “Pönö” Heiskanen is also involved in JYP’s coaching.

– It has the tractor driver feature. Put on a checkered shirt and put a haystack in your teeth!

Finally, let’s forget about the tractor, because many people who follow hockey have wondered what Jukka Holtari is up to these days?

– I am now working on all the hobbies that have remained over the years. Among other things, painting and drawing. I wondered what nice things I was doing 35 years ago, what was left unfinished then.

What about working in hockey?

– Last spring I was a mentor for the coaches of JYP’s U14 team. And I was there in the same role as an assistant coach. That was great. After the scout work in Vancouver, I wanted to go back to my roots. There was a need to give back to the sport, after having received so much from it.

From this it can be concluded that you will continue to be seen in some kind of supporting role?

– I will definitely do some project-based work.

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