It's hard to imagine, Toni Söderholm always seems so focused and focused.

But he also "lost the thread" during his active time as a professional ice hockey player.

That was in the 2008/09 season, Söderholm had returned to his hometown club IFK Helsingfors, one of the two big Helsinki clubs.

There he met coach Kari Jalonen and it was anything but a holiday camp.

Because the whole club "had lost track" and needed a fresh start.

And Jalonen should organize that.

So the successful coach approached the task as he had always done, whipping his team through the preparations, relying on discipline and structure.

"First we work, then everything else, that wasn't easy for everyone," recalls Söderholm.

But it worked: "We got to a point where we understood that we had to listen to a coach who was involved in ten or eleven championships and that we didn't know everything better ourselves."

Two and a half years later the project was finished, HIFK celebrated the Finnish championship.

An experience for which Söderholm Jalonen is still grateful today.

"That's when I realized what you have to do to win.

Only then did I realize why you do all this.”

A reunion in the World Cup quarterfinals

Eleven years later, the two meet again at the scene of their mutual triumph.

On Thursday (3:20 p.m./Sport 1 and Magentasport) the quarter-finals between Germany and the Czech Republic will take place at the 85th Ice Hockey World Championship in the old Helsingin Jäähalli in Helsinki.

Coach of the Germans: Toni Söderholm.

Czech coach: Kari Jalonen.

The national coach doesn't think it's that important: "Ultimately it's not about us, we don't want it either, we want a good ice hockey game.

If we win, I won't be happy anymore because he's on the gang."

You can believe him, first and foremost Söderholm, 44, would be happy for his team - and of course for himself. Because they all still have an unfinished business with the Czechs.

"This time we want to get into the semi-finals," says striker Marcel Noebels, referring to the quarter-finals in Slovakia three years ago, when the Czechs were also up against them.

At that time, the Germans lost 1:5, but felt much closer.

Only after the 1:3 did they become “overly motivated” (Söderholm) and wanted too much.

Which the Czechs punished coldly.

"We have more patience"

Söderholm has often thought about this game since then.

And believes this time to be a step further.

Not only because his team finished second in Group A after five wins from seven games, while the Czechs only finished third in Group B.

The Germans are also more mature today: "We have more patience."

A quality that also distinguishes teams from Jalonen.

The 62-year-old has already trained in Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the Finnish national team.

Söderholm has a lot of Jalonen's philosophy in it.

One thing above all: prepare the team for all eventualities.

Anyone who plays under Jalonen has "a safe feeling".

And few things are as important in professional sports as self-confidence.

The Finnish Germans and Finnish Czechs would now also be tactically similar.

"There is a possibility that it will be a bit like a chess match," says Söderholm, but maybe it will be completely different, he does not want to reveal too much.

But the basic ideas of the previous World Cup games can now be seen again: compactness in front of the goal, clear and structured forwards when own puck possession, no hara-kiri actions, focus on team unity.

Going into the opposing zone with one or two strikers is hopeless, Söderholm's system needs all five players close together - in all three zones on the ice.

However, nobody is worried that it won't be visible on Thursday.

After the historically strong group phase with 16 points, the mood is dazzling, nothing is left of the Olympic hangover.

Nevertheless, Noebels says: "On Thursday, no one will ask how we played in the preliminary round, it's all about winning or losing.

We can be proud that we have played a good tournament - so far.

We're far from finished."

The Czechs, who have been waiting for a World Cup title for twelve years, will think so too.

Overall, they've fallen behind a bit compared to the others from the "Big Six" of world ice hockey.

Also in terms of the offspring or the abundance of NHL stars.

Of course, some still have them, most notably David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.

But he alone will not fix it.

It looks like Czech ice hockey needs some new impetus.

It has already found the right coach for its national team.

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