Former Flyer Ilkka Sinisalo dies at 58

Ilkka Sinisalo
Former Flyer Ilkka Sinisalo died Wednesday, April 5, 2017 in his native Finland. He was 58.

Ilkka Sinisalo, a smooth-skating forward who was part of some of the Flyers' top offensive teams in the 1980s, died peacefully with his family by his side in Finland on Wednesday morning, the team announced.

Mr. Sinisalo, 58, battled prostate cancer for several years.

"Ilkka was a true friend and loyal member of the Flyers," Paul Holmgren, the club's president, said in a statement. "He gave a great deal of his time, effort and talents to the organization in several capacities, as a player and long-time scout, to bring this franchise success on and off the ice.

"Most important to all that knew him, he was a great person, a loving husband, father and grandfather. His presence and friendship will be deeply missed by all that knew him."

Mr. Sinisalo played for the Flyers from 1981-82 to 1989-90. He was a solid second-line winger who had 199 goals, 209 assists, and 408 points in 526 career games with the Flyers.

According to the Flyers, Mr. Sinisalo's first goal was scored on a penalty shot. He was the first Flyer to do that and only the third of five in NHL history.

Former Flyer Kimmo Timonen, also from Finland, said Mr. Sinisalo was a role model for numerous young players in his country.

"He was one of those people who made the way for us, the younger guys," Timonen said. "He was one of the first Finns to do well in the NHL, so obviously everybody knew him back home."

Mr. Sinisalo finished his career with 204 goals, placing him seventh among Finnish players in NHL history. He also spent time with the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota North Stars.

Timonen said Mr. Sinisalo downplayed his cancer fight.

"He really wanted to keep it quiet," Timonen said. "He didn't want anybody to feel sorry for him. That was him."

Timonen called Mr. Sinisalo "just a nice guy to be around and talk to. We had a couple beers once in a while. I will miss his smile and his stories. He helped me a lot when I came here. Sometimes when I struggled, he was easy to talk to."

During his career with the Flyers, Mr. Sinisalo scored more than 20 goals six times, including 36 in 1984-85 and 39 in 1985-86.

Back in his playing days with the Flyers, Mr. Sinisalo inspired Sign Man at the Spectrum to dub him Ilkka Score-a-goal-a.

Mr. Sinisalo is regarded as one of the Flyers' best rookie free-agent signings. 

Overshadowed by teammates such as Brian Propp, Tim Kerr and Rick Tocchet, Mr. Sinisalo was a highly dependable two-way player.

"Ilkka was the first European forward with the Flyers who really fit in well," Propp once told the team's website. "He had fantastic scoring ability, especially on breakaways."

In a statement, general manager Ron Hextall called Mr. Sinisalo a "very good player, a great teammate, but most importantly an outstanding person and a terrific friend to us all. We've all had the pleasure to work with him for many years, and he will be missed."

Mr. Sinisalo is survived by his wife, Carina; his sons Niklas and Tomas, and Tomas' wife, Maija, and their children, Peter and Matilda, Holmgren said.