Random Hockey Card: 1981-82 Topps Jari Kurri #18

Once in a while, Jonathan will pull out a random hockey card from his personal collection and attempt to share a few interesting observations.

This is the first installment of “Random Hockey Cards,” which hopefully will prove to be a long and successful series. It will feature cards of past and present Oilers—and a few of my childhood memories. (One important note: the cards pictured in each post will be my actual cards.)

The first packs of hockey cards I purchased were from the 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee set. (I can still taste that lovely pink gum.) Sadly, none of these cards remain in my possession. (Actually, there’s a somewhat interesting story about what happened to those cards, but it will have to be told some other time.) If I remember correctly, it was during this same season that I chose the Oilers as my favorite hockey team. Five Stanley Cups in my first ten years as a fan isn’t bad.

Today’s card is from the 1981-82 Topps set—identical to the O-Pee-Chee set of the same year, minus the French. Card number 18 in the set belonged to Jari Kurri, the original “Finnish Flash.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Kurri is the godfather of which current NHL player? (The answer can be found below.)

I remember as a kid thinking that Kurri must be Korean. On the card he does have an Asian look to him. And “Kurri” does sound like “Korea.” Sure I could have read the back of the card where it says he’s from Finland. But there must be some Koreans in Finland!

Anyway, this is Kurri’s rookie card. On the back of the card you can see that he had a fine rookie season, scoring 32 goals and adding 43 assists. (By the way, the rookie of the year was Peter Stastny who tallied 46 goals and 93 assists.) Kuri’s 75 points were good enough for second in team scoring, behind some guy named Gretzky.

I’ve read that Kurri didn’t speak much English when he first arrived in Edmonton. It’s said that he learned English by watching the TV sitcom Happy Days. In those early days, he could often be heard in the dressing room mimicking Fonzie and repeating his catchphrases “Heyyyy!” and “Whoa!” He even nicknamed Gretzky “Chachi.” (OK. Some of that might not be true.)

Kurri began his rookie season slowly, but eventually he was promoted to the top line, replacing Blair McDonald and forming a dynamic duo with the aforementioned Gretzky. And the rest, as they say, is history.

ANSWER: Sami Lepisto of the Chicago Blackhawks.

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