After three years Matjaz Kopitar will be back as head coach of the Slovenian national team. This was announced by the leadership of the Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia following the re-election earlier this week.
“Matjaz Kopitar was our first choice, we had such a decision at the board and among the players,” said President Matjaz Rakovec.
The parties have found an agreement and will sign a contract during the summer when the work with the players begins.
The Jesenice native and father of Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar was a national team player for Slovenia and earlier Yugoslavia himself in the early ‘90s before moving to coaching in the early 2000s in Slovenia. Between 2004 and 2008 he worked at several IIHF tournaments as an assistant coach before being named head coach during the 2010/2011 season.
The 52-year-old led the team at five World Championship events – three in the top division where Slovenia was relegated each time and two in Division I where the team earned promotion both times. He also led Slovenia to the surprise qualification for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games that ended with a historic 7th-place finish.
After the 2015 Worlds he left the team and had a quick stint with Swiss second-tier team Martigny Red Ice in the 2016/2017 season. Now he will be back in coaching with the national team.
Recently Slovenia missed out on promotion at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. Since being promoted to the top level for the first time as an independent nation in 2001, Slovenia had only missed out on promotion before in 2009.
After the “Mission Budapest” failed, Kopitar will be in charge of what was already labelled as “Mission Astana”. In the Kazakh capital the Slovenes will play for promotion from 29 April to 5 May 2019 against Belarus, Korea, Kazakhstan, Hungary and Lithuania. The top-two teams will be promoted to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Switzerland.