A tale of two Christmases

Vesalainen quarantined during family's visit while Dubois went on Rocky Mountain retreat

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Pierre-Luc Dubois had a Christmas to remember. Kristian Vesalainen had one he'd like to forget. The difference between the two experiences of the Winnipeg Jets teammates -- the results of daily COVID-19 tests.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2021 (335 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had a Christmas to remember. Kristian Vesalainen had one he’d like to forget. The difference between the two experiences of the Winnipeg Jets teammates — the results of daily COVID-19 tests.

We take you back to Dec. 21, when every member of the hockey team was required to give one final swab before parting ways for the holiday break.

“I had no idea at all. I had no symptoms. I had no clue. I thought it was a bad joke at first, but I guess it was not,” Vesalainen said Thursday of the positive result that came a few hours later. To make matters even worse, his parents and other family members were touching down in Winnipeg later that day, a long-ago planned visit from Finland.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Kristian Vesalainen spent his Christmas break isolated from his family who were in town visiting from Finland.

“That kind of sucked,” said the 22-year-old. “I had no symptoms at all. That was frustrating to just sit at home and feel perfectly fine, but couldn’t do anything. That was really frustrating for me. I know when I sit that many days at home, it’s not going to be good when I come back. So that was really frustrating.”

Vesalainen’s loved ones spent more than a week here in Winnipeg, but they were only able to see each other over video calls. He kept hoping he’d produce two straight negative tests, which would have got him out of COVID-19 protocols prior to the 10-day window, but they kept coming back with the same result

“I feel bad for them too. They came from Finland to here and I couldn’t see them. That was kind of brutal,” said Vesalainen. “I got them in an Air B&B, so they stayed here for the nine or 10 days they were here. We played Monopoly on the phone and FaceTimed at the same time. That was the only thing we did. They went shopping and did some Christmas shopping and things like that. They enjoyed their time, but they wanted to see me, so that wasn’t too fun.”

Contrast that with Dubois, whose clean bill of health meant a few days of family fun in Banff. The No. 1 highlight was dog sledding in the mountains.

“I was the one driving the entire time for my sled, so I’m sure they enjoyed it. It’s an experience I didn’t even have on my bucket list prior to doing it. But it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.

“I think back in November or October I threw the Banff idea out and I said, ‘OK, this is going to be everybody’s Christmas present. Is that OK?’ And they all said yes. So we went there for three days, two nights, had a great time. It was cold, but that’s what you want for Christmas, you want snow and cold. Got to visit Banff and all that, had a spa day. All in all, you got exercise, I got a massage, it was a perfect trip.”

Dubois might not want to show too many pictures or videos around Vesalainen, who emerged from mandatory quarantine Thursday, still shaking his head over how everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

“I’m the guy who doesn’t worry at all about that. I feel like Superman, so I didn’t think I’d get the COVID, but I guess that was wrong,” he said.

Teammate Andrew Copp also tested positive the same day, right after he’d flown home to Michigan to spend the holidays with family. He was able to resume skating in his home state earlier this week, after U.S. government officials modified quarantine to just five days. However, Copp had to remain south of the border because the Canadian government requires anyone who tests positive to be at least 14 days removed from the diagnosis. He will meet the team in Las Vegas this weekend as they start a three-game road trip.

Vesalainen pushed himself hard at practice, including a solo bag-skate long after the rest of the Jets left the ice at Canada Life Centre.

“Today I didn’t feel my legs at all. My hands weren’t there. It’s going to take some time to be back at the skill I had before. It’s going to come. I just have to work hard these couple days and get over it,” he said.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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