Liiga Review: Brad Lambert is back where it all began

LIIGA / Artikkeli
After three seasons of playing for other teams, Brad Lambert has returned home to Pelicans.

It seems like there is never a dull moment when it comes to the 2022 NHL draft-eligible forward Brad Lambert. He's been suspended for waving the middle finger at the opposing team bench, been left out of the U20 national team's practice tournament, then making his way into World Juniors, and eventually, transferring to a new team in Liiga.

And this is just the past few months. In actuality, the rumbling around the player has been relatively nonstop for several years now.

Lambert first entered the league late in the 2019−20 season in HIFK, playing four games when the team was missing a lot of its players due to injuries and the flu. He managed to sign an extension with the team for the upcoming season but suddenly decided to transfer to JYP instead.

Times in JYP were harsh. Despite playing on the youngest team of the league, it was clear that Lambert, 16 at the time, may have not been ready to play at the Liiga level just yet. The struggles continued to the U20 national team, where he started to fall out of head coach Antti Pennanen's favour.

Being left out of the Four Nations tournament seemed to be a wake-up call for the player. Pennanen said in an interview on the Urheilucast podcast that Lambert had personally called him to talk about what he needed to improve to make the World Juniors squad.

Getting named to the WJC squad for Edmonton showed that he had done exactly what the coaches wanted. As did Lambert's five points in the two games before the tournament was cancelled due to covid outbreaks.

Only a few weeks after the team returned home, Lambert switched teams for the second time in the past three seasons. But, this time, he returned where it all began for him, his hometown of Lahti. The player himself approached JYP to terminate his contract to make the move to another team.

Lambert grew up in the Pelicans organization, but this is his first time playing for the team at the elite level. The team, where he likely should have been playing this entire time. The team, where he could have been concentrating on his overall development, rather than picking and choosing the best availabilities for him.

In the four games he's played, Lambert is yet to score a point. However, it isn't surprising; the Pelicans have been struggling as a team at the start of the year. In January, they have only won one game out of the six played. As a result, Lambert has been forced to play a more defensive position, which is the part of his game where he still has the most issues.

But the good news is, under the lead of the most positive guy in the league, head coach Tommi Niemelä, the team and Lambert are likely to change their course for the better.

Covid ravages the league

Starting from the three-team covid outbreak in December, there hasn't been a week without new cases in the league. The teams most affected by the outbreaks and constant postponements of the games have been HPK and KooKoo.

HPK entered quarantine for the second time in January after several players tested positive before Christmas. KooKoo, on the other hand, played their last game of 2021 on December 28th and didn't get back into action until January 28th, when they were supposed to play already on the 12th.

Unlike in the NHL, positive cases within the Liiga teams lead to a 6-day quarantine for the entire team. This is because the teams don't have the resources to test the players daily or even weekly. Therefore, when one player shows symptoms, the entire team has to be tested and isolated for nearly a week, even if their test is negative. This is mostly done to prevent further outbreaks in the league.

Kuva © Mikael Mäntymäki / Liiga

Mari Kivimäki − the first woman in power

Liiga has been looking for a new CEO since last autumn, and in January, the league finally announced they had found a successor for Riku Kallioniemi. The new Liiga CEO is going to be Mari Kivimäki, who will be the first woman to ever lead the league.

In the league's press release, the chairman of the Liiga executive board, Heikki Hiltunen, said that Kivimäki's extensive background in the consumer business, customer relations, and marketing spoke in favour of her appointment to the role.

Kivimäki will step into the position this summer.

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