Even though we won't see the former captain on the ice, the whole country will be focusing on his work as GM of the host country’s national team.
“As the World Championship will be approaching, we will feel a lot of pressure from people to fulfill their expectations for sure. During the tournament it will be the same. I’m looking forward to it, but I know it will be at least one or two months full of stress and tension,” Miroslav Satan told IIHF.com.
During his active career the 44-year-old participated in 12 World Championship tournaments including two tournaments in 1993 and 1994 where Slovakia moved up to the top division after becoming an independent country. In 2002 when Slovakia won the gold medal for the first time in history, Miroslav Satan was one of the key players of the team. His success and his role will lead him to a place in the IIHF Hall of Fame on the last day of the World Championship.
Over the years, he had to get used to being under the pressure before each tournament. But Miroslav Satan admitted that he feels bigger responsibility now as the general manager.
“There is not such a pressure on the players as on the coach or the general manager. I remember it when I was a player at the 2011 World Championship. We wanted to play as good as we could. Yeah, there was some tension, but definitely not as much as there is now. The thing is, we are the ones making the final decision about who will make it to the team and who will not. It's a huge responsibility for us to build the best team. That's why we will certainly be under the pressure,” says Satan, who is in his second year as general manager of the Slovak national team.
“I will be very happy if after many years Slovakia moves to the top-eight teams again. Once we get there, anything can happen. I hope we catch an opponent, that we are able to surprise,” continues Satan. In this case, Slovakia could fight for a medal again after so many years.
“Why not. We need to be positive about it. Think one step ahead and work hard. If we don't believe it, then we can let somebody else do it. But we believe that we will be able to prepare the team optimally so that after a long time we can reach the top eight and surprise someone there. Because in the playoffs everything is possible.”
Satan knows exactly what he is talking about. He was part of the team during many historic games that brought medals to the Slovak national team. Although most fans think about the gold medal in Gothenburg 2002, he points out the silver medal from St. Petersburg in 2000.
“Among the most memorable moments ranks the World Champion title from 2002. However, the 2000 silver medal is very similar to it, as it was such an unexpected success,” said Miroslav Satan, who also added that this medal was the precursor of the future Slovak successes.
“Perhaps, the silver medal was even more important because we were the team no one believed in. Until then, Slovakia only came to take part in the championship and not to succeed. After that, everything changed. It was awesome how the team got together despite the fact that we didn't have many stars from the NHL.
“From the group stage it was really hard to get into the playoffs for us. What we showed during the next three games was unbelievable. We demonstrated that Slovak hockey has the capability to play with the best teams in the world,” said the Slovak hero, who had his farewell game on 18th December in Bratislava.
Players who added another silver medal from Helsinki in 2012 were also a part of that night. His most iconic moments were presented on the screen of the Ondrej Nepela Arena, which touched the captain to the heart.
“When I saw it, I was close to tears. It brings me back to the times when I used to meet up and play with these guys. But it reminded me on one thing, that life goes on and everything is behind us. Now, only memories remain. I like to think about that period, it was very pleasant,” said Miroslav Satan, who was inducted to Slovak Hockey Hall Of Fame after the game.
“It is a great tribute to me. My first coach, who was also there that night, used to tell us one thing: 'You are not hockey players. You will become hockey players when you turn 25 years old and will have played 50 games for the national team.’”
“That is why the national team was always the highest motivation for me. I was very fond of playing with the double cross on my chest. Maybe that's why the farewell game was sold out,” said Satan, who will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame on the medal day of the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Bratislava.
“I do not know why he didn't want to get into the net. It has been a long time since he was on the ice, so maybe he had respect, but you never know, maybe he was afraid he would get a lot of goals,” Miroslav Satan laughed and continued: “But he wanted to take part, so we honoured him with the symbolic puck drop before the game.”
Miroslav Satan has a collection of all medals from the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships he won with Slovakia. He was also part of the Slovak national team during games which led Slovakia from the C-Pool to the top level.
With 186 games Miroslav Satan played more games for the Slovak men’s national team than anybody else. In 1994 he became the best goal scorer of the Olympics in Lillehammer. At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver he was a part of a Slovak team which finished fourth. In 2009 Satan won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh Penguins.
After his active career he became a general manager of Team Europe, which made it to the final of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey where they lost to Canada. Since 2017 he has been the general manager of the Slovak national team and is dreaming of more medals for his country.