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Niko Peltola ends his playing career

Ilves Hockey Oy

Ilves defenseman Niko Peltola, 31, ends his playing career due to knee injury. During his 12-year professional career Peltola played for Ilves, Jokerit, Sport and Ässät.

Huittinen-born Niko Peltola started his hockey career at Lauttakylän Luja. During his junior years he played for Ässät and Sport before signing with Ilves where he started his professional Liiga career and represented the club in 2010–2013. The defenseman took his next career steps at Jokerit, Sport and Ässät before returning to Ilves in the beginning of 2019.

Over his 12 seasons in the Liiga Peltola played 518 regular season games and scored 148 points (31 goals, 117 assists). He made 34 appearances in the playoffs and relegation series and added 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists). The defenseman also played 14 KHL games at Jokerit and two games in the Finnish national team. He was named alternate captain at Ässät in 2016–2019 and at Ilves in 2020–2021 season.

Peltola wore the Ilves jersey in 252 regular season games and registered 75 points (20 goals, 55 assists), which ranks him 15th on the clubs all-time defensemen scoring list. In 21 playoffs and relegation games he added 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists). The defenseman produced his single-season scoring record in 2019–2020, when he scored 5 goals and added 25 assists in 55 games.

Ilves sport director Timo Koskela thanks Peltola for his work for the club.

– Niko Peltola has been a very important member of our team and a much liked person among the group. Before his injury Niko was playing the best hockey on his career. He beamed self-confidence and willingness to affect the play in all areas of the game while always putting the team first. The career ending injury feels extremely regrettable. On behalf of the whole organization I want to thank Niko for his excellent work for Ilves, says Koskela.

”My second stint at Ilves was by far the best time of my career”

The knee problems that led to Niko Peltola’s retirement originated from an injury in a pre-season game just before the start of the 2020–2021 Liiga season. The injury led to three surgeries and a long rehabilitation process. The defenseman made his return to Liiga games in March, but was forced to end his season after four games. After his third surgery in April, Peltola started the rehabilition and preparation work for the ongoing season.

– I was aware of the difficulties and challenges caused by my injury for a long time, but I still wanted to try to put myself in shape during the summer and do everything I could. Because of that I can now look myself in the mirror without having thoughts like ”what if”? I did everything that was possible to continue my playing career, but when the doctors saw that my knee won’t be the same anymore, there was no other choice than to accept the situation, says Peltola.

This season ”Bono” wore the Ilves jersey in eleven Liiga games. His last one ended in a 5–2 victory over Jukurit on November 15, 2021.

– It was nice to get to play in front the crowds this season, of course, but the other side of the coin was that, because of the knee problems, I was no longer able to contribute on the ice the way I wanted to. It is still frustrating to retire, because this second stint at Ilves was by far the best time of my career.

Ilves kiittää yleisöä Ilves-Jukurit-ottelun jälkeen 15.10.2021.

During his 12 seasons in the Liiga the defenseman represented Ilves in 2010–2013 and 2019–2021.

– My first stint at Ilves included a positive rookie season and extremely difficult years that followed, when the organization was in completely different shape than at the moment. After my return I enjoyed every moment here. I was given a lot of ice-time and we won games. During the season that was ended by the corona pandemic I had a feeling we could have gone very far in the playoffs, but there’s no point in speculating too much about that, says Peltola.

– There is a bit of a boom developing again at Ilves. The attendances are much higher than most other clubs have and the fans are creating an insane atmosphere. It is frustrating not being able to experience the new arena as a player, but all in all I’m left with great memories of my time at Ilves and Hakametsä arena, which is the most legendary ice hockey arena in Finland. The guys will soon take the last strides there and then it’s time for a new chapter on that area as well.

Niko Peltola (#8) Ilves-paidassa syksyllä 2013.

Peltola’s career includes countless persons, who have had a big influence on his development. The biggest thanks from the father of two kids naturally go to his own family and parents.

– My parents have transported me and put in so much effort to make things possilble in my youth. I thank my wife deeply for these ten years we have spent together – it’s not easy to move 18 times during your partners playing career and always build the family’s life back in order again. On the hockey front I want to warmly thank the equipment managers, conditioning staff and organizations’ other staff that have always given great support. All the coaches and teammates on my career have been important to me, of course.

– I also want to express my gratitude to our supporters – it’s you we play for, after all. Like we saw last year, ice hockey isn’t the same thing without the crowd. Keep the momentum going and the yellow-green flags high, encourages Peltola.

After a twelve-year professional career Niko Peltola will have more time for other things in life, mutta his interest towards ice hockey remains too.

– I’m interested in staying connected to ice hockey and it’s probable that I will remain with the sport in some way. My son plays in the Ilves juniors so I will probably coach there every now and then. I have things under consideration, but now it’s time to take it easy for a while and then see, what I will start doing in the future.

At the end of the interview Peltola reminds of a thing that applies not only to ice hockey but to other sides of life as well.

– I want to highlight the feeling of gratitude I feel for being able to play this long and do what I enjoy. As a younger player, in the beginning of my career, appreciating these things wasn’t so clear to me either – I learned to do that through experience. It’s important to be able to take a look outside your own bubble once in a while and appreciate what you do and those things that are going well in your life at the moment.

The playing career at the top level ends, but the memories and friendships created during it remain. Thanks for everything, Bono!

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