KYIV – The Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine named Dave Lewis their new national team head coach. The Canadian, who was presented at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday, signed a one-year contract.
The Kindersley, Saskatchewan, native, whose grandparents came from Ukraine, played 1,008 games in the NHL before starting his coaching career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1988. He was behind the bench as an assistant coach for 14 years, winning three Stanley Cups as an assistant to Scotty Bowman. After Bowman resigned in 2002, Lewis became the Wings’ head coach for two years.
Later, the 57-year-old was also coaching the Boston Bruins for one year and he was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings.
Lewis already collected his first international experience in the region when he joined the coaching staff of the Belarusian national team for the 2009 World Championship and for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The Ukrainians failed to get back to the Top Division in the last three years and they hope to succeed this time when Ukraine hosts the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division I Group B in the capital of Kyiv. The team will battle for promotion on home ice against Kazakhstan, Poland, Great Britain, Lithuania and Estonia.
It was also announced that the contract includes an option for extension until 2014 if Lewis succeeds in winning the tournament and qualifying for the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Finland and Sweden.
“It is our strategic goal that our team will play in the Olympics in Sochi,” Anatoli Brezvin, the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine’s President, said at the press conference.
Ukraine, currently 18th in the IIHF World Ranking, had its only participation at an Olympic ice hockey tournament in Salt Lake City 2002 where the team finished in tenth place.
Dmytro Khristich, Yuri Shundrov and Mikhail Zakharov were named assistant coaches.
Zakharov was the head coach of the Ukrainian national team last year, and he was also Lewis’ boss when he was the head coach of the Belarusian national team at the Vancouver Olympics. This time the roles will be reversed.
Speculation about Lewis already up prior to the press conference as Lewis attended the game between Sokil Kyiv and Neman Grodno on Thursday. Lewis came in right time just before the November international break.
The national team will open its camp in Kyiv on Sunday before travelling to Poland on Tuesday. Ukraine will participate in the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Sanok where Lewis’ squad will face the Netherlands, Poland and Russia’s B-team.
Brezvin also informed about the progress with the arenas. For the World Championship Division I, the Palace of Sports in Kyiv is being rebuilt, same as the Sports Palace Druzhba in Donetsk, where the World U18 Championship Division II will be held.
“All work is on schedule and the arenas will be fully reconstructed by March,” Brezvin promised. It is planned to use both facilities for the Ukrainian playoffs.
The refrigeration plant, ventilation, light, a video cube, the network, cables, seats, and an extended number of dressing rooms – almost everything will be new in Kyiv’s Palace of Sports, Brezvin said about the ongoing construction work.
Vadym Sysyuk, the Deputy Minister of Ukraine for Family, Youth & Sports, is making hope for progress on the ice in the future. “Ukraine has unfortunately been an outsider in the progress of hockey development in the former Soviet area in the last few years. Russia, Belarus and Latvia invested significant resources into the development of ice hockey and they have strong teams. Now we have to learn a lesson from our neighbours,” Sysyuk said and added that his department’s plan to build 15 ice rinks per year is supported by the country’s new president, Viktor Yanukovych.