Pekka Rinne’s Journey from Kempele, Finland to the Music City

Pekka Rinne was born on Nov. 3, 1982, in Kempele, Finland, and was drafted in the fourth round at 258th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. Before becoming Nashville’s starting goalie in the 2008-09 season, he played in the SM-liiga for Kärpät. His best season with them was in 2004-05, where he posted a 1.68 goals against average (GAA) and a .927 save percentage (SV%) in 10 games. Between the 2005-06 season and 2008-09 season, he was between Nashville and their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

In the 2005-06 season, he tied for second in the AHL with 30 regular-season wins. He had 10 postseason wins with three shutouts to lead the Milwaukee Admirals to the 2006 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to the Hershey Bears. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 15, 2005, against the Chicago Blackhawks, where he led the Predators to his first NHL win. In his first season as a full-time member of the team, he posted a 2.38 GAA and .917 SV% in 52 games. He quickly became one of the NHL’s top goaltenders.

He has been a pro for 14 seasons, and in his career with the Predators, he has started in 646 of 659 games. He has 359 career wins, 201 losses and has faced over 18,000 shots. Rinne currently leads the Predators franchise in wins (359) and shutouts with 58. He also holds the NHL record for most wins by a Finnish goalie, is a four-time NHL All-Star competing in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, and is one of 12 NHL goalies to score a goal.

Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At the end of the 2010-11 season, Rinne was one of three Vezina Trophy nominees. The trophy is awarded to the best goalie in the NHL voted by the league’s general managers. In that season, he also finished in the top four for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the NHLs most valuable player, and he was named a Second-Team NHL All-Star. In the 2010-11 season, he led the Preds to their first-ever Stanley Cup series win, where they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 in the series. The following season, on April 25, 2012, for the second year in a row, he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Rinne was a nominee for the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game. The eventual winner was former NHL player Jaromír Jágr. Rinne was also a Vezina Trophy finalist again in 2015, marking his third career nomination for the award; he lost to Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. In 2018, after three prior nominations, Rinne won the Vezina Trophy.

On Nov. 3, 2018, Rinne signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension with Predators, making him a team member through the 2020-21 season. The night he signed the contract extension, he posted a shutout over the visiting Boston Bruins with a 26-save game.

Breaking Records

On March 14, 2015, he became the fastest goalie to record 30 wins in 39 games since the NHL introduced the shootout and just the third goalie in the NHL’s expansion era to achieve 30 wins in 39 games or less. He hit another milestone on March 16, 2017, where he became the 67th goaltender to play at least 500 NHL games.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne, Flyers vs Predators, Dec. 19, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On Nov. 24, 2017, Nashville beat the St. Louis Blues 2-0; the shutout was Rinne’s 45th in his career, making him the NHL’s all-time leader amongst Finnish-born goalies. On Feb. 22, 2018, he became the 34th goalie in the NHL to record 300 career wins after a 7-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks. 

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When he posted his 300th victory, he had the third-highest win percentage of all goaltenders in the NHL with at 54.34% with at least 300 wins, behind only Martin Brodeur, former New Jersey Devils netminder and former Pittsburgh Penguins and current Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-André Fleury.

International Play

Pekka Rinne played in the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Championship tournament, where team Finland won a silver medal. In this tournament, he was named the Most Valuable Player. The following year, he played in the same tournament where he was named the tournament’s best goaltender and set a new IIHF record for minutes played without letting in a goal. In March 2016, he was selected to play for Finland in the World Cup of Hockey. He played one of the three tournament games and two pre-tournament games.

Playing Style

Rinne plays the popular butterfly style of goaltending. This is where he drops to his knees early and uses his stick and legs to block shot attempts. His height provides him with an advantage; he is 6-foot-5 inches, making him the fifth-tallest goalie currently in the NHL.

Pekka Rinne Predators
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators Oct. 19, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He has an excellent reach with his stick and his pads. Although he is taller in stature, he utilizes great footwork and has a good glove hand, but plays a shorter stick than most goalies.

Charity Work

Started in the 2013-14 season, the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund is an initiative of the Nashville Predators Foundation, Rinne, and former captain Shea Weber. The fund works with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.

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The fund was started because Rinne and his former teammate Weber wanted to make a difference in the Middle Tennessee area. The fund offers unique opportunities for patients and their families to get a taste of the Smashville experience, including player meet and greets and watching Predators home games from special suites.

The Future of the Famous Finnish

Rinne has accomplished much greatness throughout his NHL and international career. I look forward to seeing what more Rinne will accomplish as he moves into his potential final season with the team. Even if he doesn’t break more records, he will still go down as one of the NHL’s top goalies and a franchise icon.

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