Two head bangs in the same season – and a subsequent headache that stopped Joel Blomqvist from playing for significant parts of the hockey season. Yle Sporten asked the goalkeeper promise how he felt during a tough winter.
He hadn’t been seen in the Kärpätjerna for almost three months.
But when the first round of the playoffs started, it was suddenly Joel Blomqvist guarding the Oulu team’s goal. Nykarlebysonen was in good condition in the count’s time after persistent headaches had plagued him for a long time.
At the same time, Leevi Meriläinen, who had the main responsibility in his absence, was completely missing from the lineup.
– The fact that I was back just for the playoffs was not something you could have planned for. Everything has been about getting in shape and getting the trust, Blomqvist tells Yle Sporten, a couple of days after his Kärpät was knocked out.
Heavy season end
The 21-year-old’s comeback week developed into a nightmare for Kärpät. Hockey Finland spoke about one of the all-time fiascos when the league’s most expensive team was knocked out already in the qualifiers for the quarter-finals by KooKoo.
Blomqvist guarded the goal in all three games of the week and should not be singled out for the early curtain call. The shooting star put in a solid effort and was back at the level that brought him against the series’ goaltending elite.
– To return after three months with such an effort – it’s just a tip of the hat, coach Lauri Marjamäki said after the first game, which Kärpät won.
– It felt great. It’s the matches that are the fun and the ones that give you energy, you got a big boost after the long absence. I think it felt perfectly fine even though the matches arrived quickly, Blomqvist thinks himself.
– We wanted to go much further than that. The disappointment was great within the team.
The workouts gave me a headache
The accident occurred during two replays during the first half of the regular season. Blomqvist received a couple of blows to the skull. The first in October and the second in December – the latter forced him to take a break from matches for almost three months.
Whether the symptoms after the second blow had any connection to the first is difficult to say. But it was a painful headache that followed.
– It was simply two head injuries, I’m not even sure they were concussions. But I was forced to be away from games because of the symptoms they gave, notes Blomqvist.
After a head injury, the player must follow a protocol, where the amount of training increases gradually. For the 21-year-old, the road back was not straight.
– I got so far on the protocol that I had to be on the ice for a few repetitions, but the symptoms came back and then you really had to start over. There was a time when I stomped the place.
– The headache came mostly when I was training. Outside of sports, I had no problems.
Location check in Pittsburgh
When the situation began to improve, Blomqvist was called to North America for a medical examination. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who own his NHL rights, did a medical on his future name – and gave the green light.
This was about a week before the comeback. Then the headache had started to ease.
– They wanted to find out about my situation. The doctors examined me and gave me the green light to start training for real.
This allowed him to return to league play. The comeback in Kärpät was short – but the coaches were satisfied.
– They gave positive feedback. The last match was difficult, but apart from that they were happy.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s farm team Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have some games left to play. That there will be a return to North America this spring is not impossible for Blomqvist, whose contract with Kärpät is now coming to an end.
– I don’t know what will happen next. You have to wait and see, says the grand promise.