LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - Mats Waltin has been announced as the head coach of Team Slovenia. Waltin takes over after American Ted Sator and the Swede will lead the national team at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Canada. He signed a contract for the remainder of the 2007-2008 season.
It was under Ted Sator’s leadership that Slovenia made a quick return to the top division of the World Championship, by sweeping the Division I tournament last spring at home in Ljubljana. Led by NHL-star Anze Kopitar, Slovenia dominated from start to finish and didn’t lose a point.
But after Sator’s sudden resignation, the Slovenian team stood without a head coach for the country’s biggest challenge ever, Canada 2008. After searching available candidates, the federation picked Mats Waltin, a former star defenseman for Djurgarden Stockholm and the Swedish national team in the late 1970s. He is among the all-time great Swedish national team players with 236 national team games, placing Waltin sixth among all Swedish players.
Waltin later played in Switzerland, before he took the job as Switzerland, Davos and Lugano coach. He coached Djurgarden to Swedish titles in 2000 and 2001, practicing the revolutionary “Torpedo-style” that emphasized strong forechecking and all-out offense, a style that Waltin practiced as a player. He was also the assistant coach of Sweden’s Tre Kronor at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Waltin’s latest coaching job was with Klagenfurt of the Austrian league two seasons ago. His first major task will be the 4-nation’s tournament in Odense, Denmark, in December. He has already been in the country for four days and was attending a game of Slovenia's currently most successful club Acroni Jesenice, which is ranked second in Austria's top league.
Mats Waltin had met Slovenian team before at the 2002 IIHF World Championship as assistant coach of Team Sweden. “Working with a national team as a player or a coach is for me a really special occasion”, Waltin said, “I don’t know Slovenian ice hockey very well, but I know that the team had played years ago in elite group and in this season we are there again. A week ago the representatives of the Ice Hockey Association of Slovenia contacted me and asked me what my status is. I immediately answered that I am very interested in this challenge.”
His first goal is to be well-informed about ice hockey and players in Slovenia. “To have a good connection with players and their club coaches is very important for me in this moment. At the beginning, I have to meet everybody who works in Slovenian hockey. I have to choose the best players, but also the most motivated, if we want to be successful.
“Formally I will start as a coach of the Slovenian team in December at the Challenge in Denmark. In February we will have another tournament. At this moment I am really looking forward to knowing all the people who will work with me and I wish to have a good and open connection with everybody in the team. I would like to make an atmosphere in which all the players will come smiling at tournaments for the national team.”
The president of the ice hockey association of Slovenia, Damjan Mihevc on the left, and the new Slovenia head coach Mats Waltin.