uspw_7012010The Columbus Blue Jackets wasted little time replacing Scott Howson in the general manager position, bringing in Jarmo Kekalainen to fill the void. He’s from Finland, which makes him the first European to be a GM in the NHL.

Somewhere, Donald S. Cherry is bursting out of one of his trademark suits…

“One of my dreams since I hung up my skates has been to be a GM of an NHL team sometime. Now that dream has come true,” Kekalainen said. “I’m really happy and pleased, even proud, that I’ve been give this chance.”

Kekalainen is the current GM of Jokerit in Finland and served as the director of amateur scouting for the St. Louis Blues from 2002 to 2010. Some thought the 46-year-old was in line when the Blues were in the market for a new GM in 2010, but the club went with Doug Armstrong instead. At that point, Kekalainen headed back to Finland.

“Jarmo and I have a relationship that goes back a number of years, most recently with the St. Louis Blues organization where he was an assistant general manager and in charge of the amateur draft,” John Davidson, the Blues’ directof or hockey operations, said. “I look at Jarmo as a person who has a world of experience. 30 percent of the players in our league are European. He’s very intelligent about the world of hockey, not only in Europe but also in North America.”

In Finland, Jokerit finds itself in first place. But Kekalainen had been waiting for an NHL job for so long that he had a sort of escape clause written into his Finnish contract that would let him out of the deal if a job in North America materialized. It did, so he’s on his way to Ohio in short order.

“I’m humbled but at the same time have faith in myself. I believe I’ve deserved this opportunity through my own hard work,” Kekalainen said. “Now I’m going to roll up my sleeves and go there and build a team out of the Columbus Blue Jackets that seriously aims to win the Stanley Cup.”