Susanna Tapani: Multi-Sport Superstar
For many young athletes, playing multiple sports is not only a common occurrence but highly encouraged. Research shows that playing multiple sports helps to develop a full range of skills, and complement each. Yet as they get older, many high-performance athletes choose to specialize to reach the pinnacle of their primary sport, decreasing their level of competitiveness in other sports as they increase in one. But for Susanna Tapani, a Finnish professional hockey and ringette player, there was never a decision as to whether she would drop one sport–she would be outstanding in both.
Hailing from Laitila, Finland, a small town just over 200 kilometers northwest of Helsinki, Tapani grew up playing ringette as well as ice hockey, excelling in both sports over the years. While she originally played ringette, as a kid she served as a fill-in on a boy’s hockey team at the request of a friend–who likely knew her skating and stick-handling skills were impressive from ringette–and enjoyed it so much that she continued playing.
Tapani made her professional hockey debut before a record-breaking crowd on January 6, 2024, playing with the Minnesota team in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League. Centering the second line, the dynamic player was drafted in the fifth round, 25th overall in the inaugural PWHL draft. The crowd numbered over 13,000, making it the largest attendance for a professional women’s hockey game, according to the Star Tribune.
The PWHL Minnesota forward is also a three-time Olympian in ice hockey, including two Bronze medals (Pyeonchang 2018, Beijing 2022), and a five-time world champion (1 silver, 4 bronze) with Team Finland. Throughout her career, she has played on many teams–men’s and women’s– in Finland, Sweden, and Russia. She even played in the NCAA–Tapani was recruited to the University of North Dakota, where she played one season before returning to Finland to complete a degree in sports management. The dynamic Finnish National Team player (2010-2022) is currently ranked 6th all-time in points scored with the Finnish women’s national team.
But, as ringette fans worldwide know, she got her start in a different women’s ice sport. Tapani is also the captain of the Finnish ringette team, and has won six World Championships (serving as the captain or assistant captain of five of them since 2010). She currently competes in SM Ringette, the top elite league in Finland, and has been a six-time Finnish national champion, four-time MVP, and four-time scoring leader of the league.
Tapani credits ringette for her speed, agility, and stick-handling abilities on the ice, particularly when it comes to staying competitive at the highest level of both sports. At the World Ringette Championships in Espoo, Finland, Tapani stunned on home ice, ending the tournament with a gold medal and tournament MVP honours.
Despite being one of Canada’s fiercest rivals, Tapani has cultivated a career for ringette players of all nationalities to aspire to. And of course, she does it all while balancing a professional career in two sports.
Tapani will return to Canada to compete against the PWHL Ottawa team on January 17th, in what is sure to be an action-packed game. As the PWHL continues in its inaugural season, one thing is abundantly clear– we are entering an incredible era of visibility, talent, and success for women’s ice sports.