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Raimo Helminen sets up last goal in his final game for Finland

TAMPERE, Finland - Raimo Helminen capped his long international career Thursday by assisting on Finland's last goal with four seconds left in a 6-1 win over the Czech Republic in the LG Hockey Games.

After a five-year absence, the 43-year-old Helminen was picked by head coach Doug Shedden as a gesture of honour to finish as a national team player before his home crowd in Tampere.

The game was his 331st - a record for Finland. He finished with 207 points, including 52 goals, for the national team.

"The guys did a great job to make Helminen's night even more special, and send him into retirement," Shedden said.

Helminen is the only hockey player to have competed in six Olympics. He also played in 11 world championships, winning the gold medal in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1995, with NHL players absent.

Sweden played Russia in the other game in Stockholm. The tournament is part of the European Hockey Tour.

Tomi Kallio, Mikko Lehtonen, Hannes Hyvonen, Esa Pirnes, Toni Salmelainen and Tuomas Pihlman scored for Finland. Pavel Kasparik scored for the Czechs.

Helminen left the ice to cheers from the capacity crowd of 7,800. He was applauded on the ice by Timo Jutila, who was captain of the 1995 national team, and former NHL great Jari Kurri, the team manager.

Then, Helminen's old teammate, former NHL player Jyrki Lumme, put him down in a rocking chair.

"Nice to be a part, the boys played pretty well," Helminen said. "I hoped not to disturb their playing schemes, but we played well, and it meant a lot to me to finish on my home rink."

In the 1980's, Helminen played 119 games in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders.

He has a Swedish title from six seasons with Malmo in the beginning of the previous decade, and played 823 games with 615 points (171-444) in the Finnish League for Ilves of Tampere.

Helminen will play out the season with Ilves, currently seventh in the league and on course for a playoff spot.


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