Stars Finnish striker Joel Kiviranta cooks lunch in good mood at home in Tuusula. The reason for 24-year-old Kiviranta’s cheerfulness is getting home and out of the Edmonton NHL bubble after 65 days of severe isolation.
– There was nothing to do and the days were boring. When I wasn’t playing, I only counted the hours for Kunpa to get away, Kiviranta says.
The start of the playoffs in particular was a difficult time for Kiviranta.
– I was an extra striker. We had eight extra guys who were separate from the playing team. We couldn’t even practice with the rest of the team.
Stars’ other Finnish players Miro Heiskanen, That Lindell and Roope Hintz belonged to the playing team, so Kiviranta didn’t even get a chat buddy for them.
– It was hard when I couldn’t play and couldn’t be with others. Other players were only seen in passing. Only access to the playing team eased the situation a bit, Kiviranta says.
Highlight of the day
In Edmonton, Kiviranta lost time playing PlayStation and playing home in Finland.
– The only other pastime was planning where we would order lunch. And there weren’t many of those options, just two, Kiviranta chuckles.
When Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup on September 28 after knocking out the Stars in the sixth match 2-0, Kiviranta did not waste time.
– I left for Finland the very next day.
“Bone in hand home”
The Stars were two wins away from the coveted Stanley Cup victory.
– It was a disappointment when you get so close and then go home with your bones in hand. It felt like time in the bubble was wasted a bit, Kiviranta says.
The fourth game of the final series went to the playoffs. Lightning won the match Kevin Shattenkirkin with a superior goal in time 66.34 and took the lead 3–1 in wins.
– From a small point, those games were closed. Stay here or another here. Or a puck from a pole in or out of a pole, Kiviranta ponders.
“Fortunately, celebrating in the hall”
Stars and Lightning players lived in the same hotel after Lightning moved from Toronto to Edmonton for the conference finals.
– There were almost no Lightning players at the hotel. Our lounges were side by side, but no opponents were often seen. Sometimes it happened at the same time to pick up lunch in the hotel lobby, Kiviranta says.
Kiviranta is happy not to have to watch the Lightning championship party.
– Luckily they were partying in the hall for so long that we got upstairs to our rooms and didn’t have to see their party.
The story continues after the picture.
Stop game solver
Kiviranta played only the final match against the Calgary Flames in the first playoff round and then sat in the stands for the first six games against the Colorado Avalanche until the coach Rick Bowness let the Finnish striker let go of the match of life and death
– It was an exciting place when it turned out that I was playing and still in such a place. Game seven is such a big deal in North America, Kiviranta recalls.
The highlight of the playoffs for the Joker Breeders hit just that seventh and decisive game in the semi-finals.
The Finnish newcomer, who had only played the third NHL playoff match of his career, made a 2-2 draw in the second round and scored a 4-4 hit just three and a half minutes before the end of the regular season. The stars ’relegation place in the spring 2019 world champion decided the evening with their third hit after the overtime was played 7.24.
The performance of Kiviranta was described as a sensation and not without reason.
-That game was personally the most amazing match of my career so far. Ran away a little from the fingers, Kiviranta chuckles three goals for his evening.
Kiviranta collected 6 (5 + 1) power points and a plus / minus score of +7 in 14 playoffs.
Kiviranta is now spending time at home, when under normal circumstances the NHL Regular Series would already be underway. With these prospects, the next season will begin on January 1, 2021.
– It’s weird to be “on vacation” at this time of year. But this has been a strange period anyway, when at the end of June we went behind the Atlantic to play the puck, Kiviranta says.
So far, Kiviranta only focuses on rest.
– After its isolation, it now feels good, feels really on vacation. For a few weeks I give the body a rest and after that I watch when and where I start training. There is still no certainty about the start of next season, Kiviranta says.