International Ice Hockey Federation

Going Slovak style

Going Slovak style

Ciger talks about new job as national coach

Published 12.04.2023 16:33 GMT+3 | Author Juraj Hudak
Going Slovak style
Zdeno Ciger talks at his first press conference as Slovakia’s national team coach. Photo: Jan Sukup / SZLH
No Canadian style, no Swedish style. Slovakia’s new national coach Zdeno Ciger is looking to implement a Slovak brand of hockey for his team.

“I will be really pleased if we show our Slovak hockey and don’t play some Canadian or Swedish style. We want to enforce our way, which we have in our genes,” Ciger said.

“In my times, when I used to play, Slovak hockey players were always manly, willing to fight for our country’s jersey and that was seen on the ice.”

The former national team forward wants to build a new team based on team play and chemistry. “First of all we need to get together a good team. In the past successes we always had great collective chemistry. I think that we still have skilled quality players. We just need to work on the right team spirit,” said Ciger, who played in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He agreed to a two-year contract with an option for an additional year including the 2018 Olympics. The contract is valid from 1st September.

Last time Ciger coached a pro team was with Slovan Bratislava four years ago. He helped the team win two Slovak championships after having won four as a player, and now he is heading for a bigger challenge. Despite the long break he’s not afraid about taking on one of the most stressful and highly scrutinized coaching jobs in the country.

“I think it will be hard. I was probably bored, so I needed to complicate my life a little bit,” said Ciger, who succeeds long-time Slovak manager Vladimir Vujtek.

“Of course, I have respect for this position. It is a big challenge in hockey life. Coaching the national team is a big thing so I wouldn’t refuse this chance. I have a lot of experience and if you like this sport, you believe the success will come.”

His assistant coaches have yet to be named but the question of the team staff will be discussed with Robert Svehla, the new General Manager of the Slovak national team, by mid-September.

The naming of the coach followed a turbulent summer for Slovak hockey, with a tightly-contested race for presidency between incumbent Igor Nemecek and his challenger, former player Richard Lintner, that continued to make noise in the media even when the election was over and Nemecek was re-elected.

Ciger was first on Lintner’s side but now that he has taken the head coach position he believes that all the controversy surrounding the will be put aside.

“We should forget about all the conflicts and help Slovak hockey to improve. I want to see a change and I can see that the current administration of the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation is making the compromises and that’s what I want to see from all the players who wanted to boycott the national team,” said Ciger, who could even not think about players boycotting the national team as some had reportedly threatened.

“Every nomination is an honour for each player. This kind of offer can’t be refused. When I used to play, there were like three or four Slovaks on the Czechoslovak national team and the rest of them could only dream about it. Players that made the nomination respected that. I don’t want to hear about boycotting at all,” Ciger said. “I want to think positively and I believe that everything is going to go well.”

For Ciger it is a big change in his life now that he is heading for a big challenge after having worked on his own hockey academy in the past years. Constantly being under the pressure by media and the whole country won’t be easy. How will he manage that?

“Being behind the bench of the national team is a big responsibility and opportunity for me as well. I represented my country as a player and now it is quite similar. It is up to me to show what I can do and if I am the right person for this job. Time will tell if it was good step,” Ciger said.


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