His views of how to play successful ice hockey had a huge impact on the team. Although Austria was relegated in Prague there was no doubt on the part of the Austrian Ice Hockey Federation towards extending the contract of the Canadian coach for two more years.
If you look back at the season 2014-15 as head coach of the Austrian National Team what comes into your mind: is it more positive or disappointing?
“Very positive! From the November tournament in Slovenia, to the February Vienna tournament and then into the World Championship in Prague, we got stronger as a group and we played some really good hockey in Prague.”
What conclusions could you make after your first season with the national team?
“If we want to make a serious break from our 10 or 20-year pattern, we need to make some structural changes and take a long view. Otherwise, we may continue to dance between A & B pool and we will also continue to get dominated by the world’s strongest hockey nations.”
A lot of “experts” were surprised about the performance of Team Austria. Did you have any doubts about skills and the strength of your team?
“If we want to take a serious step as a hockey nation, our skills need to improve. This means being able to execute, in other words to “play the game”, at a faster, stronger and more precise level.”
“Higher individual fitness levels are needed, but this is only one of the key components of playing the game. Long-term, we could really benefit from investing in the skill and fitness development of young Austrian players who will eventually represent Team Austria.”
The Austrian Federation extended your contract. You presented a short-term and a long-term plan for the national team. What are the key facts for the future?
“I presented my thoughts on a Two-Year-Plan and a Ten-Year-Plan. The shorter view includes the creation of a Team Austria fitness plan, a basic protocol for international IIHF breaks and an off-season structure for Team Austria players.”
“The longer view simply identifies some obvious structural issues that could benefit Austrian hockey, such as attracting more kids to the game, investment in infrastructure & youth coaching, further development of the fitness plan and increased cooperation between the league and the Austrian Federation.”
What is your goal for the 2015-16 campaign and the upcoming summer with a huge tournament for the Olympic qualification?
“My goal for Team Austria is that we play faster, more precise, higher-quality and stronger hockey. If we do this, we increase the probability of getting good results. Hockey is a beautiful “flow” game of speed and skill.”
“Hockey-specific fitness is absolutely a core element of playing at higher and higher levels. There are many aspects of hockey that you can’t control. But fitness is one area that you can control – if you are willing to put in the work.”
Courtesy: Austrian Ice Hockey Federation