The Columbus Blue Jackets officially announced the hiring of Jarmo Kekäläinen as general manager on Wednesday morning, who becomes the first European general manager in the NHL.
"Hockey is a truly global game and there are very few people whose knowledge of the game in North America and abroad surpasses that of Jarmo Kekäläinen," said Blue Jackets president of Hockey Operations John Davidson, via the team's press release. "He is intelligent, hard-working and a tremendous evaluator of talent. He is a terrific addition to the Blue Jackets family and will play an important role in our efforts to move our organization forward in the coming years."
The Tampere, Finland native stated during a Wednesday press conference in Finland that he's prepared to do what it takes to turn the Blue Jackets franchise around, although he knocked down any talk of an official "rebuild."
"I don't like the word 'rebuilding'," said the new GM. "Those who stay on top never think they've achieved everything and are better. The work continues. What I can guarantee is to roll up my sleeves, get to work and go all-in for the organization."
Kekäläinen had a limited career in the NHL with a brief stop with the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators in the early 1990's, but instantly shined the moment he stepped into the front office of a hockey club. He then served as the GM of IFK Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League until 1999, came back to the U.S. to serve as player personnel director with the Senators before moving on to director of amateur scouting with the St. Louis Blues.
After three years as the GM for Jokerit of SM-Liiga, Kekäläinen returns to the job that has always been his ultimate goal.
"This has been my dream since I retired as a player - to be an NHL GM. Now it has come true," said Kekäläinen. "I believe I have earned this opportunity through hard work. I will roll my sleeves, go there and start building a Cup-contender."
The Columbus Blue Jackets have made some tremendous strides as an organization after the disappointment of last season, beginning with the hiring of Davidson and now the acquisition of Kekäläinen. Considered one of the leading hockey minds and a proponent of using advanced stats, Kekäläinenhas earned a reputation as one heck of a hard-working leader.
"I have said that challenge is important to me in life," said Kekäläinen on Wednesday. "This is one and I look forward to it."