International Ice Hockey Federation

Ramsay to lead Slovakia

Ramsay to lead Slovakia

Former NHL coach signs two-year deal

Published 15.08.2018 16:14 GMT+11 | Author Martin Merk / Juraj Hudak
Ramsay to lead Slovakia
Most recently Craig Ramsay was behind the bench as an assistant coach for the Edmonton Oilers in 2014/2015. Photo: Bill Wippert / NHLI via Getty Images
The Slovak Ice Hockey Federation has hired Craig Ramsay as new head coach of the Slovak men’s national team.

New General Manager Miroslav Satan announced at a ceremony on Wednesday that the two parties agreed on a two-year deal.

The contract will include the 2018 Olympic Winter Games as the next big event for the team as well as the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark, and the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Bratislava and Kosice.

“I’m glad that such an expert who has worked in the NHL as a player and for many years as a coach in various roles will join us and help us lead our hockey into a new epoch with new methods,” Satan said according to the TASR news agency.

Ramsay will be the head coach of the men’s national team but is also expected to mentor younger coaches to create a unified game system within the program.

Ramsay will be the third foreign coach in history of the Slovak men’s national team after fellow countryman Glen Hanlon (2010-2011) and Czech veteran coach Vladimir Vujtek (2011-2015). He replaces Zdeno Ciger, who was coaching the team during the last two seasons.

But Slovak fans shouldn’t expect a typical Canadian coach as former national team player Boris Valabik, who had one common season with Ramsay at the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010/2011 but was sent to the farm team, told Dennik N.

“He preferred more skilled players, which was not ideal for me. He’s an expert. He didn’t like the defensive game. Shooting the puck along the boards is not his style. His favourite expression was ‘safe is dead’,” Valabik said and thinks Ramsay will be a good match for European hockey despite having neither played nor coached on the continent. “He’s not a typical Canadian coach. He will match to the skilled Slovak style. He will be able to excel with skilled Slovak forwards.”

As a player Ramsay spent his whole NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres, who named him a Hall of Fame member of the club in 1986, one year after retiring as a player. He played 1070 regular-season games (252 goals, 420 assists) and 89 playoff games (17 goals, 31 assists) for the Sabres and once appeared in 776 consecutive games without missing one, making his ironman streak the fifth-longest in NHL history. He’s also in the record book as last NHL player to play a full season without penalty minutes, during his 78 games in 1973/1974. In 1985 he won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the best defensive forward of the league.

Ramsay turned into coaching immediately after his retirement as a player and continued with the Sabres for eight years as an assistant coach, as an interim head coach replacing Scotty Bowman, as director of player personnel and assistant GM.

He later had stints as a head coach with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Atlanta Thrashers and has a 66-71-19 all-time coaching record in the NHL but spent most years as an assistant coach with stints at the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and most recently in 2014/2015 with the Edmonton Oilers. Last season he served as a consultant for the Montreal Canadiens.

His biggest success as an assistant coach in the NHL was winning the Stanley Cup with John Tortorella and the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

The 66-year-old is expected to arrive in Slovakia next week. On 23 & 24 August Slovakia will play back-to-back cross-border exhibition games against neighbour Czech Republic in Trinec and Zilina. During the November international break Slovakia will play at the Deutschland Cup in Augsburg, Germany.

At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Korea, Slovakia will play in Group B with Russia, Team USA and Slovenia.

At the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Denmark the Slovaks are seeded in Group A in Copenhagen where they will have Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, France and Austria as opponents.

Below is an interview after his arrival:

This is going to be your first job in Europe. Have you consulted with other coaches you know who already had some experiences with coaching a European team?

Geoff Ward is one guy with whom I coached in Boston and I spoke with him about coaching in Europe, to see what I can expect a little bit. He thinks it would be a good fit the way I coached and what I want from players. The European players exactly understand what I want from them and have the commitment I expect from them. He thought that it would be a good fit and I would enjoy it. He is the guy that I really trust and so I talked to him about this.

Could you give some insight of your philosophy you want to bring to the Slovak national team?

First I want to see the players and see what they can do and what they do the best. My philosophy is as I´ve been saying all the time “safe is death”. I don't like to be safe, I don't like to be laying back and waiting for somebody to make a mistake. I believe in that. I expect everybody to be able to play defence, but I expect everybody to try and score a goal as well. Checkers have to learn to score and scorers must try to check. We will be all together and that´s my main simple philosophy.

Who else will be in your coaching staff?

We 'll sit down and discuss it.. Miro (Satan) had some ideas, but we are still considering some people that I know from the past and some who I don't know and Miro does. We have few days where we can talk where we want to go. I am just happy to have Vladimir Orszagh and Jan Lasak with me and we all going to work well together.

What made you decide to accept the offer coming from Slovakia?

It was pretty simple. Miro called me I think it was Friday and I had two days of golfing and I was feeling pretty good about everything and he surprised me. I didn't tell my wife until next day. When I told her she said we are going. So I was in. I talked to some friends Geoff Ward, Zdeno Chara and other guys to ask about the Slovak hockey where they thought the team was. They were all very excited about the possibility of me coming over and coaching. It didn't take me very long to really make up my mind after that. I tried to cover as many details as I could and I was really excited about doing something completely different for me.

There was no NHLer on this year’s World Championship roster. Are you going to change that in the future, try to phone them and see them?

I would hope that if they come up and they are available I would like to think they may want to come with Miro and myself. He would be more in touch with the NHL players, but I would like to think they would see what's being done here, the progress, and they would want to be involved. We see the growth of this young people and they become better players and I like them around of our hockey team.

Are you a strict coach or a more democratic one?

Democratic? Not so much. I am always willing to listen a little bit. I tell players what to do and they do it. I think it's important. I went through that in Boston with Zdeno Chara. When I first came there I was telling the defencemen to do something and they weren´t doing it. After that we had a nice short meeting and decided that from now on that doors were not open. I tell you what to do and you do it. After that I am a pretty easy guy to be along with. As long as you do what you are told, you can come and talk to me.

Will you stay here in Slovakia during the whole season?

I don´t think the first trip would be very long, but I told Miro that I am going to be available. The second time it would be probably two months I think. In the Christmas time I will have a little break then I will go back again. There is work to be done and I have to learn about the people so we are going to do some scouting and watch the players. I will be very much available, I don't look at it as a part-time job. I want to be a part of the learning curve of the team.

Was the offered salary part of your decision?

The salary was not a big deal. I didn't do it for the money. I did it because the people I knew and the opportunity to have impact on the team and the growth of the hockey here. I was lucky to meet few of the players while I worked in NHL so I am not here for the money.

Where do you see the Slovak national team in two years from now?

I would really like to see the Slovak team competing with the top teams. I always believe I can make a difference. With our staff we can help this team with ideas Miro already has. We can make players and the team better. But we can't do it tomorrow. It's going to take some time and we get young people and we can get them to understand the intensity and commitment to be part of this team. Then we can be better and we can be growing as an organization.


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