Villem-Henrik Koitmaa tells in an interview about his career so far, his goals and the future of hockey in Estonia.
In mid-March of this year, many European ice hockey seasons ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the players have been in “home training” due to the official exit restrictions. These measures also affected Estonia’s 28-year old Goaltender, Villem-Henrik Koitmaa, who is keeping fit in Tallinn, his home country of Estonia. We were able to have a direct conversation with him about the current situation and his plans for the future:
BalticsMedia: Villem thank you for taking the time to talk to us. The current situation through COVID-19 is not easy for everyone, how about you?
Villem-Henrik Koitmaa: “Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. Yes it is true, the situation is not very easy for everyone. I miss the ice and of course I want to get back on the ice as soon as possible. But I exercise daily and using this opportunity to get in the best shape I can physically.“
BM: Do you already have a rough plan of how it might go on after this pandemic, nobody knows how long it should last?
VHK: “To answer your question short then no, I don’t know where I will play next year. I have been talking with some teams but at the moment there are more questions than answers.”
BM: In Vasas you had a good time after your time in Dunaujvaros, you could play a lot of games.
VHK: “Yes, the time in Budapest was very good for me, although Vasas was placed in the table below, I was able to play. I didn’t play a lot in the 2 years in Dunaujvaros and was also dissatisfied with myself. The problems in Dunaujvaros were with my health. But you live and learn. I have learned from my injuries.”
BM: In the event that an engagement in one of your “desired leagues” should not work, is there a plan “B”, for example in Tallinn in the Estonian League?
VHK: “Yes, there are these considerations. There have been talks of a new team in Tallinn but like I said, at the moment there are more questions than answers.”
BM: In your career there was also a station in New Zealand at „Dunedin Thunder“. How did it come about? It is not necessarily the top ice hockey nation.
VHK: “If I remember correctly the interest was shown from the head coach there. He offered to play for the team. Due to the time difference, these games were played when it was summer with us. New Zealand is also a very beautiful and wonderful country. It was an amazing experience for me.”
BM: Another “exotic” station was Belgium at the “Sharks Mechelen” and then in Poland, at KH Torun. How did that happen?
VHK: “BeNeLiga offer came in the beginning of August. The offer was good financially and I decided to take this opportunity. It was a step down level wise from Erste liga. When a team from Poland offered me a contract after a successful tournament with the national team in November I didn’t hesitate because I wished to play at a higher level. The start was great in Poland, as I got a shutout in the very first game. In the second game I tore my hamstring and that ended my club season.”
BM: You addressed the national team with the “Baltic Cup”. In the last IIHF ranking, Estonia was the only country in the Baltic region to lose a place. It is now 23. What is the future of the national team?
VHK: “We are on the right track with the national team, also because of the youth work in the Estonian ice hockey association. At the last Olympic Qualifier in Nottingham there were a lot of rookies in the squad, the “Change of Generation” project is going in the right direction.”
BM: You and Roman Shumikhin have been the top guys for many years now. Is there any juniors coming who could join the mens national team?
VHK: “Me and Shumi have been the 2 guys now for the last 5 year and have a good thing going. We help each other in practises and get along well. There are a few promising juniors keeping us on our toes as well. Oliver Soovik, Marcus Hämarsalu, Mark Teor and Christopher-Kullervo Jõgi to name a few.”
BM: Your career will certainly take a few more years, but you already have plans for the “After, maybe goalie coaching, or goalie summer camps for kids.
VHK: “I will stay 100% in ice hockey. I have worked as a goaltending coach in the Estonian U18 and U20. I also enjoy being able to pass on my experience to the young players, even in summer camps especially for goalies.”
BM: Siim Liivik, who plays in the EBEL, also holds special hockey camps for children in Estonia in summer since you got in touch?
VHK: “Siim and Robert Rooba have been throwing hockey camps in Tallinn during the past 4-5 summers. I have been helping them with goalie coaching and that’s where I met Siim as well. Siim is a very experienced pro and a great help for the estonian hockey. It was great to have him playing with the national team as well in the Baltic tournaments.”
BM: What role does he have in the national team, since he has the potential of a leader, a so-called “alpha male”.
VHK: ”At the moment he is not allowed to play in the official tournaments. If he could join the national team full time it would be a great help for the younger guys, who could learn from him.”
BM: Villem-Henrik, thank you very much for the very detailed discussion and wish you the best of health and all the best for your future.
VHK: “Thanks too!”