The SM-liiga is the well-known professional ice hockey league in Finland. Its popularity is one of the reasons that the SM-liiga is regarded as one of the best leagues within Europe. It was founded in 1975 as a replacement for the SM-sarja. SM-sarja was outlined to be a league for amateurs while SM-liiga was created with a format for professionals. The common “SM” in SM-liiga and SM-sarja stands for Suomen mestaruus or “Finnish championship.”
SM-sarja needed to be replaced as there were quite a lot of points that had to be improved. Being an amateur league, it did not have the stricter rules the professional SM-liiga had. While it was still in transition, the league came to a point where it achieved a semi-professional flavor. As a result, only a handful of players could make a living from hockey playing. At least, however, many of the younger generation would take the risk and sign up even without wage.
The SM-liiga had the usual set up of having a regular season as well as the fans’ favorite playoffs season. By the time the SM-liiga had started, it had the 10 clubs SM-sarja had. Around 1988-1989, it was able to expand to 12 clubs.
Since ice hockey was a favorite sport of the Finnish, the popularity of SM-liiga strengthened and gained popularity. By the time the 1900s rolled in, the combined audience attendance reached approximately 1.8 million. As a result, SM-liiga had a boost of profitability especially in the ice hockey business. This then fuelled the league’s full transition from semi-professional to professional. Right around the middle of the 1990s, SM-liiga’s players no longer played for free as they were now signed up to play full time and had wages to support them.
In 2007, SM-liiga had a major boost in advertising as its now 14 teams were integrated into EA Sports’ NHL 2007, an ice hockey video game.