- “I’m recovering from an injury. Don’t check me too hard.”
- That was Matti “Mölli” Keinonen’s wish before the inaugural match at the Uusikaupunki ice rink began in 1977. Jarmo Kolkka, back then an 18-year-old ice hockey player from Rauma, was one of the players on the league team in the match in question.
However, he did not get properly acquainted with Uusikaupunki until 1983. Kolkka had been playing in the Swedish Division 1 and for Nacka HK for three seasons, and he was starting to think about returning to his homeland. The father of Atso Vainio, the current mayor, was an influential figure around the Uusikaupunki ice hockey team, and he persuaded Kolkka to join Lätkä-77.
“He was on a business trip in Sweden and called me. After the negotiations, I transferred to Uusikaupunki in autumn 1983 and got a job at the ice rink,” Kolkka says.
At first, he worked at the rink during the days and sweated on the ice in his hockey gear in the evenings. His tasks also included giving lessons in ice hockey and skating.
“At that time, we were using the orange ice resurfacer which would always shave off ice from the wrong places,” Kolkka chuckles.
Since then, he has had one role after another. Some of the more important ones were ice rink manager, player, ice hockey coach, ringette coach and coaching manager. Years have passed, roles have varied and life situations have changed, but the ice rink has stayed with Kolkka all these years.
“This is still the dearest place to me in Uusikaupunki.
I’ve seen and experienced all kinds of things, and met all kinds of characters here. I’ve also made many lifelong friends,” says Kolkka.
Known as a sturdy defender, “Japo” kept sweeping pucks away from the crease in the local hockey scene for 12 years. When Jää-Kotkat set out to seek promotion to the second tier, Kolkka decided to make way for younger players. In one respect nothing has changed: the locker room is still all the rage. Topics of conversation have changed, but the longing for locker room life persists.
“We used to talk about women and our romantic adventures. Nowadays we talk about our latest prescriptions,” Kolkka jokes.
His box of memories contains a colourful repertoire of stories. One of the ice rink managers drove through the board which we then repaired together; Juhani Tamminen stumbled over a stack of boards left in the hallway during our time in the Championship series; local matches against Kapa-65 filled the rink to the brim with spectators, and there have been promotions to higher leagues to be celebrated, too.
Team effort both on the rink and in the locker room is particularly important to Kolkka, and he demands that one person be mentioned in this connection. Through his actions, the late chief school officer Onni Högmander left a lasting impression on Kolkka.
“If someone seemed to be slipping away from the team, they would in one way or another be persuaded to come back to play. I have often used this as an example. That team considered it exceptionally important that everyone be involved. Society has much to learn from this kind of team spirit,” Kolkka enthuses, referring to the hockey team of players born in 1976 of which Högmander was the team manager.
In little over a year, Kolkka will celebrate his 40-year anniversary at the Uusikaupunki ice rink. His pace is not slowing down: he has three training sessions per week and recently won a bronze medal in the national 60-plus league.
Name: Jarmo Kolkka
Occupation: Property manager. Active citizen in the sports community. Regular defender.
In this article series, Uusikaupunki residents share reminiscences of important places from around their hometown.