PRAGUE – Until now the Czech Ice Hockey Association has pinned its hopes on domestic coaches for their national teams. This policy has changed. The Czech junior program will now get foreign assistance.
After a seventh-place finish at the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championship in Saskatchewan, the U20 staff was replaced. Miroslav Prerost succeeded Jaromir Sindel as the U20 national team’s head coach.
Prerost led several other junior selections, most recently the U17 national team. He started in May with a camp in Plzen to meet eleven players that play junior hockey in North America as well as those from domestic club teams.
He has been joined by two assistants whose names may come as a surprise.
The more famous name is Jiri Fischer. The 30-year-old, who won the 2002 Stanley Cup with Detroit and the 2005 IIHF World Championship with the Czechs, ended his career in 2005 after he collapsed on the bench during an NHL game due to a heart condition. After retiring Fischer stayed in Detroit and has been working as the Red Wings’ director of player development since.
He joined the U20 national team in Detroit on its way to Windsor, Ontario.
“This is the closest thing to playing ,” Fischer told The Windsor Star after an exhibition game against the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires on Thursday. “It’s the closest thing to the intensity on the ice. The closest thing to feeling part of the game and having more of an impact on the outcome in putting the players on the ice in the right situations.
“It’s a lot of learning, just like going from playing at a pretty high level to player development with the Wings. I asked (general manager) Ken Holland and (assistant GM) Jim Nill in Detroit if they’d be against it, but they both thought the opportunity would be good. It’s another great opportunity in how to get better. How to get better in player development. How to get better working with players.”
The former Czech defenceman is not the only help from North America. American Terry Christensen was also hired as an assistant coach. He coached the U.S. U20 national team in the ‘80s and was also behind the bench of club teams in the ECHL and in the British league.
It’s the first time the Czechs have hired a foreign coach and this is apparently the new trend. They also signed Swedish coach Klas Östman as an assistant coach to the U17 national team.
“Both are great professional coaches, who bring a lot of energy and ideas,” said Slavomir Lener, the GM of the national teams. “I’m sure it was a good choice and that it is a step into the right direction.”
The first results of the new staff can be seen in a few months. The Czechs will play Canada, Sweden, Russia and Norway in their group at the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, that starts on December 26.