Godynyuk to lead Ukraine

Former NHLer lands top job in native country

06.08.2014
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Olexander Godynyuk was promoted from assistant to head coach of the Ukrainian national team for the 2014/2015 season. Photo: Soohan Kim

KYIV – Olexander Godynyuk will coach the Ukrainian national team in the 2014/2015 season and replace Andrei Nazarov, who left the team after one year.

The nomination was unanimously approved at a meeting of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine’s executive committee on Tuesday.

Promoted one year ago, Ukraine finished the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Goyang, Korea, in fourth place and 20th overall in the World Championship program – the best result in four years. Ukraine was playing in the top division between 1999 and 2007.

Godynyuk takes over the team in a difficult situation. The country’s strongest club team, Donbass Donetsk, was dissolved as the club took a one-year sabbatical from the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League amid turmoil in the region and tense relations between the neighbouring countries. Donbass also dropped plans to play in the Ukrainian championship and players had to find new teams for the upcoming season.

Nazarov, who was coaching both Donbass and the Ukrainian national team last season, was also left looking for a new job and was hired by Kazakh KHL team Barys Astana. His request to terminate the contract as Ukrainian national team coach was granted. After moving to Astana, Nazarov has also become an official candidate to coach the Kazakh national team.

Godynyuk was among the best Ukrainian players in the ‘90s. The defenceman played for his hometown team Sokil Kyiv in the Soviet league until the age of 20 and was named Best Defenceman at the 1990 World Juniors with the Soviet Union before moving to North America where he played 223 NHL games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Hartford Whalers.

He ended his playing career in 2001 with three years in Europe for SC Bern (SUI) and Eisbaren Berlin (GER) as well as representing Ukraine in the 1999 IIHF World Championship, the first time Ukraine appeared in the top division.

The 44-year-old has been working as a coach in Ukraine for several years. He was the head coach of the U18 national team in 2011 and 2012 and of the U20 national team in the last three years. He also coached Sokil Kyiv in the Ukrainian league and last season Moloda Gvardia Donetsk, the team that was competing in Russia’s top junior league MHL.

Last spring Godynyuk was also Nazarov’s assistant coach at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.

In the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, Ukraine will play Italy, Kazakhstan, Japan, Hungary and Poland. The best two teams of the round-robin tournament will qualify for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, while the last-ranked team will be relegated to the Division I Group B.

MARTIN MERK

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