Austrian national coach Alpo Suhonen with President Dieter Kalt. Photo: OEHV
Austria names new coaching duo
Finnish veteran coach Alpo Suhonen, assisted by Roger Bader from Switzerland, will lead the Austrian men’s national team in the upcoming season.
The change was made because Daniel Ratushny, who was coaching the team for the last two years, will focus on his club duties with Swiss NLA team Lausanne HC and won’t be available to coach the Austrian national.
“After careful consideration of all circumstances I came to the conclusion that it’s unfortunately not possible anymore to be head coach of the Austrian national team,” Ratushny said in a statement.
Since the next important tournament is coming soon with the Final Olympic Qualification where Austria is seeded in Group E in Riga with Latvia, Germany and Japan, 1-4 September 2016, the Austrian Ice Hockey Association decided in favour of an internal solution with Suhonen and Bader.
Suhonen has worked for the association as Sport Director while Bader has been the head coach of the U20 national team and manager of hockey development.
“Four years ago we began to develop an identity for Austrian hockey with Alpo Suhonen. We won’t leave that path and will continue it even more intensively,” Austrian Ice Hockey Association President Dieter Kalt said.
“Alpo Suhonen has seen all national team games of the last four years and knows the players and their abilities. Therefore it was a logical step to entrust him with the task of being a head coach.”
The 67-year-old was a coach until 2012 when he joined the Austrians as a Sport Director. He was coaching Finland at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games and the World Championships in 1983 and 1985 after having previously worked with the U20 national team. He was coaching club teams in Finland, Switzerland and Slovakia, became one of the rare European coaches in the NHL as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2000/2001 season and earlier as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Austria will play exhibition games on 24 August in Vienna against Slovakia and on 27 and 28 August in Oslo against Norway to prepare for the Final Olympic Qualification. Austria aims at its second straight qualification to the Olympics after toppling host Germany in Bietigheim-Bissingen in 2013 to earn the ticket to Sochi 2014.
“This tournament is particularly important for Austrian hockey because it’s about participating in the Olympic Winter Games. We’re aware that it won’t be easy since Germany just played a strong World Championship. However, everything is possible at a tournament as we proved in 2013. And if we have our NHL players, we will be more dangerous in front of the opponent’s net. Looking back at our last games, that’s what we need,” Suhonen said.
Austria recently finished the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in fourth place. The 20th-place finish overall in the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program has been the worst for Austria in 86 years of World Championship history.
The red-and-white team hopes to bounce back at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Kyiv, 22-28 April 2017, where Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Austria, Korea and host Ukraine will battle for promotion. The top-two teams will qualify for the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark.