It Started in 1998…
That year, the Rinta-Panttila family had moved from Helsinki, Finland to Philadelphia and Antti Rinta-Panttila played his first season for the Haverford Hawks PeeWee B team.
At Christmas break, the Rinta-Panttila family hosted one of Antti’s Finnish hockey friends for the holiday week. The boys, along with several other Haverford Hawks players, played in a local school tournament. While watching the tournament, Hawks’ parents John Wert and Pertti Rinta-Panttila wondered what it would be like to invite Antti’s entire team, the Viikingit Hockey Club of Helsinki, to the U.S. for the Hawks’ annual end-of-season tournament.
The Haverford Hawks Ice Hockey Club has served its players and families for 25 years through the Haverford Hawks Finland | USA Exchange. This exceptional cultural exchange program provides local children with a unique opportunity to learn about and experience Finnish culture while playing the sport they love.
The Hawks is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that teaches children ages 4 to 18 the sport and spirit of hockey. The Hawks have been an important part of the Havertown community since 1975, providing children in our area with a great opportunity to learn the importance of dedication, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
The goal of the Exchange is to harness our children’s love of hockey and use it to develop friendships with like-minded children from across the ocean. Over the years, many of the bonds built through the Finland | USA Exchange have become life-long friendships. These friendships inspire a curiosity for travel and learning and provide an education far beyond what they can learn on the ice or in their classrooms.
COVID-19 put a temporary halt to the Finland | USA Exchange in 2020 and 2021. But we were back and better than ever when 100 Finnish players visited us in Philadelphia in 2022. In the spring of 2023, 234 children and parents will travel to Helsinki, Finland.