Finland Hockey Leagues

March 9, 2022

Do you want to know more about the various hockey leagues across Finland?

If so, you've come to the right place...

Throughout this post, we’ll help you understand Finland's hockey leagues from Liiga all the way down to III-divisioona.

Much like their Swedish hockey neighbor, Finland is an absolute powerhouse of a country in terms of hockey development. 

The level of play in their leagues certainly reflects this.

As we move from the top league (Liiga) down through the hierarchy of Finnish hockey leagues, you’ll get a solid sense for the level of play within each.

Let’s get into it…

Liiga

Liiga is the top ice hockey league in all of Finland. 

finland hockey league
Photo credit: Finnish Hockey League

Not only is it the top hockey league in Finland, but it is considered by many to be a top league in all of Europe (behind the KHL and SHL).

The league was founded way back in 1975.

At the time, the league was not fully professional as it is today. As the decades past though, the popularity of ice hockey continued to grow throughout the nation as the Finnish national team saw more success.

In 2013, the league name changed to Liiga, taking the SM part out of the title. The league is currently comprised of 15 clubs.

The three clubs who hold the most Liiga titles all time are Karpat (8 titles), Tappara (10 titles), and TPS (10 titles).

The level of play in Liiga is high (did we say this already? yes)

Not only does the league draw much of the countries top hockey talent, but you’ll regularly find import players on each club with NHL/AHL, and other high-end European pro experience.

Many top Finnish players who eventually made solid NHL careers for themselves spent time playing in Liiga prior to making the jump to North America. A few quick examples are Valtteri Filppula, Ville Leino, and Mikka Kiprusoff (there’s many more).

Mestis

Mestis is the second highest level of hockey in Finland.

The league was established in 2000 replacing the first division (I-divisoona).

mestis hockey league
Photo credit: Tuto Hockey

Mestis is a big development league (and proving grounds) for Finnish players looking to move up to Liiga as well as the highest ranks of hockey in Europe.

14 clubs currently comprise of Mestis league, with teams spread across the country from RoKi in the north to the many clubs in the south. 

Compared to most other European countries who commonly roster imports, Mestis isn’t huge on carrying that many. Most clubs will carry a few imports, but only a handful of them actually come from North America.

The main reason for this is that local players are of high quality and are less expensive than many equivalent imports (based on the clubs budgets).

Over the years, we’ve had a couple players spend time in Mestis and have found this to be the case. This doesn’t take anything away from the quality of play…it just means there are more beneficial leagues for imports to play in where they can pull in more salary (basic supply vs demand).

Suomi Sarja

The third highest hockey league in Finland is Suomi Sarja.

suomi sarja hockey finland
Photo credit: Keski Uusimaa

The level of hockey in the 3rd league in Finland is of good quality.

Suomi Sarja is currently made up of 14 clubs in total. 

Each season, top clubs in Suomi Sarja compete to get the promotion to Mestis while the bottom clubs fight not to be demoted at the hands of the top II-divisioona clubs looking to move up.

We’ve had a number of NCAA and high-end junior players sign with clubs here in their 1st seasons playing hockey in Europe. Many have said that the hockey here was comparable to the level they were accustomed to back home in North America.

Many local players in the 3rd league are not being paid to play hockey full time (they have a side job, studying university, etc). For imports from N America, Suomi Sarja could provide a great place to play as a first year while living abroad in a beautiful country. 

Based on good play on ice, moving up or laterally to another quality European hockey country is common.

II-divisoona

II-divisoona is the 4th highest level of hockey in Finland.

finland hockey
Photo credit: Niina Karkiainen

The league was founded back in 1975 and eventually become the 4th league once Suomi Sarja took the 3rd tier in 1999.

With a large number of clubs spread throughout Finland (currently 56 clubs), there’s plenty of competition in the league to be a top club.

To help give you a closer look into II-divisoona, we recently spoke with the manager of Et-Po 72 where he filled us in on the club's history.

III-divisioona

Following II-divisioona, you have III-divisioona hockey which is the 5th highest level of hockey in Finland.

As you move down to the lower divisions, the speed, skill and overall team strength will be a bit lower caliber at each rung, but you'll still find talented players throughout many of the leagues we've mentioned above.

Some ex-Liiga players opt to continue playing for their local clubs after the prime of their careers. There's also just talented players who for one reason or another never played in the top league. A few summers ago, we had a top II-divisoona player over in N America skating on a line with an NHL draft pick and an NCAA Div 1 player (they were surprisingly all at quite similar skill levels).

In conclusion of us covering Finland Hockey leagues from top (Liiga) to bottom (divisoona levels), we hope that you have a little bit better understanding on the various levels of play throughout the country (we'll cover Finnish junior hockey leagues in another piece).

If you are a player reading this and think that you may want to play hockey in Finland (or another suitable European country), reach out to us via our contact page with a message.

Based on your playing experience, we can help inform you on where you may (or may not) be a good fit in terms of pro hockey leagues in Europe.

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