Ontario Hockey League grad Luke Pither is off to Finland for the 2013-14 season to play for KalPa of the SM-Liiga. After three years bouncing around the North American pros, it’s time for a major change.
Pither played five years in the Ontario Hockey League from 2005-06 to 2009-10 with the Kingston Frontenacs, Guelph Storm, Belleville Bulls and Barrie Colts. Luke was the fourth overall pick by Kingston at the 2005 OHL Priority Selection. In front of him were John Tavares, Mark Katic and Zack Torquato. Directly behind him in the fifth spot was Drew Doughty. Over 307 regular season OHL games, Pither scored 104 goals and assisted on 146 for 250 points. In the Robertson Cup playoffs, Luke added 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points over 54 games.
2009-10, his final year in the OHL, was the pinnacle of Pither’s junior career. Playing for the Hamilton Spectator winning Barrie Colts, Luke scored 36 and assisted on 58 for 94 points with an additional nine goals and 20 points over 17 playoff games. In assists, Pither tied for sixth in the OHL with Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers and Nazem Kadri of the London Knights. His 94 points placed him third in the race for the Eddie Powers Trophy behind Seguin and Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires who both finished with 106 points.
The Colts finished first overall in 2009-10 with 57 wins and 116 points. Barrie reached the Robertson Cup finals before falling to the Windsor Spitfires. Pither was selected as a Third Team All-Star centre with Tyler Seguin selected to the First Team and Nazem Kadri selected to the Second.
Luke was undrafted to the National Hockey League and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent in March, 2010. In January, 2013, Pither was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes organization and has yet to play in the NHL. 2012-13 was split between three teams, the Trenton Titans and Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
Kalevan Pallo is a franchise in the elite SM-Liiga based in Kuopio, Finland. Kuopio is a city of around 106,000 located in the south central of the country. KalPa plays home games at the 5,224 seat Trust Kapital Areena, a venue built in 1979. The team was relegated from the SM-Liiga, reduced to just a tier 3 team for the 1999-00 season. KalPa climbed back up to the SM-Liiga for the 2005-06 season.
KalPa placed fifth out of 14 teams over the 60 game regular season schedule in 2012-13. The team was a hasty departure from the post season, losing in the quarter-finals.
The majority owner, and still star player, of the team is Sami Kapanen. Kapanen played 831 regular season games in the NHL between 1995-96 and 2007-08 with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers. He has played with KalPa since 2008-09.