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Kings' Kurri Plans to Return to Finland Today : Hockey: He will join the Jets' Selanne on Helsinki's Jokerit club. His family will remain in Calabasas, however.


King forward Jari Kurri will return today to his native Finland and plans to play alongside his friend, the Winnipeg Jets' Teemu Selanne, by the end of this week in Helsinki.

Kurri, 34, was the Kings' third-leading scorer last season with 31 goals and 77 points. Previously, he ruled out a return to Finland, but has grown pessimistic during the NHL's lockout.

"I was hoping we could get things going," Kurri said Saturday. "But I feel I need to keep playing at this stage of my career. I need ice (time). I need to play, it's as simple as that.

"It's not the money thing--I just need to play."

The decision was not easy for the Kurri family. For the immediate future, his wife, Tiina, and twin sons Joonas and Ville will remain home in Calabasas. Kurri said it was premature to pull the fourth-graders out of school.

"It's really hard after working out all summer and with training camp," he said. "It's not a fun way to do it. But we have to stick together."

Kurri and Selanne will play for their old team, Jokerit, in the Finnish League. Apparently, club officials understand it might be a temporary stay.

"They know everything that has happened so far," Kurri said. "They knew it could be one game or two weeks.

"It's funny, both of us playing for the same team. I haven't been there (with Jokerit) for 15 years. The whole city has gone crazy about it."

Although the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has said that European clubs won't be allowed to sign NHL players, Kai Hietarinta, president of the Finnish Hockey Federation, told the Canadian Press that he does not feel bound by the IIHF. "We will welcome our players back with open arms," he said.

Said Kurri of the ruling by the International Ice Hockey Federation: "They've tried to stop us. It would be a big mistake if they did."

Already, Kurri was looking at Jokerit's schedule.

"It's too early to say when I'll play," he said.

Kurri paused, adding: "But there's a game Thursday, it's a rivalry. A big game."

He certainly wasn't talking about the Kings' schedule, which had them playing the Stanley Cup champion Rangers at New York on Thursday.

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