Salavat Yulev Ufa’s head coach Tomi Lämsä sat on a Saturday, September 19, on a plane en route from Moscow to Ufa.
Salavat Yulayev had played two days earlier in Kazan against Ak Bars and lost, but the victory of Kunlu’s Red Star near Moscow in Mytischich warmed the minds of Salavat Yulayev’s players.
However, head coach Lämsä felt somehow bad.
Lämsä complained of neck pain to the team doctor and received a few tablets from him.
– Sunday went well and I thought I was getting hard medicine for neck pain, Lämsä says.
However, Lämsä went for a coronavirus test on Monday for safety.
– Monday night came the result: the test was positive.
The men began to fall
Lämsä was not the only person infected by Salavat Julayev’s team.
– Markus Granlund and Danil Bashkirov had also become infected.
Salavat Yulayev met on Tuesday 22.9. at home in HK Sochi. Warm and top striker Granlund were quarantined at home.
– At this point, other players also started talking about their symptoms, Lämsä says.
Two days later from the home game against Traktor Chelyabinsk, an infected striker was on the sidelines. Teemu Hartikainen.
It only took two days, and KHL was chosen as the best goalkeeper in the previous season Juha Metsola was sidelined due to infection.
Four days later, Salavat Julayev’s last healthy Finn dropped from the line when the attacker Sakari Manninen coronary infection was found.
– It took just over a week, and our workshop emptied. Almost all of our players got a coronary infection. We played games number 9–15 largely with juniors, Lämsä says.
The senses disappeared
Lämsä received a positive test result on Monday, September 21st. However, on Monday and Tuesday, the Finnish coach did not feel ill.
– Then there was a fever, headache and runny nose on Wednesday. The sense of taste and smell disappeared completely. In the morning I had a remote meeting, ate, slept, ate, did a little work and slept. This took a week. In the second and third weeks, I really only suffer from runny nose, Lämsä says.
Lämsä was physically out of the team days less than three weeks old.
– I operated from home and held video conferences. I kept in touch with other coaches on a daily basis, on game days in the morning and during game breaks. I did the same job as normal, but remotely. Of course, my own personality was not involved in the same way as if I had been present.
Granlund was on the sidelines for nine, Hartikainen for seven, Metsola for six and Manninen for five.
– When a player falls ill with a corona and is on the sidelines for two weeks, people do not realize that returning to a normal level takes time. General and muscular fitness and respiratory capacity fall. It will take many weeks to get back in shape, Lämsä says.
Salavat Yulayev has already used 26 strikers, 11 defenders and four goalkeepers at this stage of the season.
– It must have been done just because of the corona. But there is a positive side to it. Promising young people have had a good time playing, Lämsä says, referring to those booked in the first round at the NHL booking ceremony at the beginning of October. Rodion amiroviin and Shakir Muhamadulliniin.
Immediately to the doctor’s speeches
Lämsä, 41, is in Salavat Julayev’s payroll for the fourth year. The first three seasons went as assistant coach and are now in their debut season as head coach of the KHL team.
– Now the situation is challenging, not only in hockey but in all aspects of life. Can only go one day at a time, from tomorrow when no one knows anything. Of course, I also have plans for lineup and gaming, but as I’ve seen, plans can quickly fly to the trash. Every morning when I go to the hall like the first team doctor and ask what the news is today, Lämsä smiles.‘
As long as there are no major worries in Lämsä, Salavat Julajev’s number one chain Hartikainen – Manninen – Granlund will remain healthy.
Without the illness, Hartikainen and Granlund would likely lead the KHL points exchange. Hartikainen has 17 (10 + 7) power out of 13 matches and Granlund has 17 (7 + 10) power points out of 11 matches. Manninen’s balance after 15 matches is 3 + 10 = 13.
– That chain is great to look at. When the club made a deal with Granlund, the idea came up that the trio should be tried. I already put them together during the training season. In that chain, everyone plays holistically in two directions, Lämsä says.
Last week, through Salavat Julayev, Hartikainen became the most effective player of the time, past the Swedish Linus Omarkin. Hartikainen plays eighth through the ranks of Ufa’s pride.
Granlund, who played 335 games in the NHL and scored 101 (58 + 43) power points but was often left without a proper role, has convinced Lämsä with his grip.
– Awesome player. Omark was a good player and the team’s game engine in his own way, Granlund has it in his own way, says Lämsä from Granlund, who has moved to Switzerland to replace Omark.