TURKU, Finland – Erkka Westerlund is back. The former Finnish national coach is also the future Finnish national coach, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association announced today.
Westerlund signed a one-year deal that will see him take over from Jukka Jalonen after the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki and coach the national team in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and the World Championship in Minsk later the same year.
“It was a fantastic offer, I didn’t hesitate a moment. I’ve been a coach for 40 years, and when you get offered an opportunity like this, you can’t say no,” said Westerlund.
“It’s going to be a tough season, with both the Olympics and the World Championship, plus all the Euro Hockey Tour tournaments, so we’ll be busy from August all the way through May,” he told in an MTV3 interview.
Westerlund was the head coach between 2005 and 2007, and coached Finland to an Olympic final in 2006 and a World Championship final in 2007, and to bronze medals in the 2006 World Championship in Riga.
“Our plan was to put everything together by Christmas, but with all the public speculation, we decided to speed up the process,” said Kalervo Kummola, the chairman of the Finnish association and IIHF Vice President.
“We returned to our first choice,” he added.
Westerlund’s assistants will be Lauri Marjamäki, former head coach of the U20 national team, and currently with Espoo Blues, and Hannu Virta, former national team player and Westerlund’s assistant both at Jokerit Helsinki in 2011/2012 and with the national team during Westerlund’s first tenure.
“We’re very pleased with the choice, and the assistants that Erkka chose,” said Kummola.
“This is a team, it’s an entity and I think we have a great coaching staff here, we all can focus on the things we're best at. This is not a one-man show,” said Westerlund.
When Westerlund stepped down in 2007, he called the media circus around the national team “a Muppet show”, a quote that the reporters remembered well. He was asked about his motivation to return to the centre stage.
“I was about to begin this press conference by asking if all the muppets were here, but I didn’t have the guts,” said Westerlund, laughing.
“Let’s start a new show,” he added.