Poland looks to the future
by Andy Potts|08 FEB 2020
Poland's captain Krystian Dziubinski (right) celebrates a goal against Ukraine with team-mate Filip Starzynski.
Recent years have been frustrating for Polish hockey fans. In a country that was once used to playing at the highest level, life as an elevator team bouncing between the second and third tiers of World Championship play represents a major comedown. But now, at last, there are signs of progress – both in the domestic championship and on the international stage.

There’s a new confidence about the team at the Olympic Qualification Group H tournament in Nur-Sultan. Talk of toppling Kazakhstan and advancing to the final stage of Olympic qualification is cautiously optimistic. Expectations for the upcoming World Championship Division IB campaign on home ice in Katowice are high.

Team captain Krystian Dziubinski has been through a lot of the lean times – he made his international debut back in 2009. With more than a decade on the team, he’s ready for a new Poland to emerge.

“In my time, we’re always bouncing between IB and IA,” he said. “We had some good moments, we almost got to the Elite Pool in 2015, but we also have some bad tournaments.

“Now we’re trying to change. We want to get back into Division IA and stick there for a little bit, consolidate until we’re ready to take the next step up.

“We have a big World Championship coming up in our country and I think we have to win that one.”

Team-mate Szymon Marzec is also looking at April as the big task for the season.

“We’re on the up,” said the 28-year-old Lotos Gdansk forward. “Things are going well here but our most important tournament is coming up next. In April we’re playing at home in the World Championship and we want to go up to Division IA.

“That’s where we think Poland should be, trying to get to the top level again.”

April will be Marzec’s second World Championship campaign after he made his international debut last season. He’s one of the ‘few new guys’ that Dziubinski is enjoying working with under head coach Tomek Valtonen.

“I hope we’re on the up,” added the team captain. “We had to start from the bottom, there were some problems in our Federation and we tried to battle through that and start over. Now it’s going in a good way.”

Dziubinski, 31, plays his club hockey for Podhale in his hometown of Nowy Targ. A long career has taken him around several of Poland’s teams, winning the domestic title four times along the way. So he’s also well placed to assess the progress made by the national championship in improving the standards for Polish hockey.

“They changed the rules in the Polish league, they abolished the import limit,” he said. “Now it’s very tight, any one of the top eight teams can beat anyone else. The other two are not quite there, but maybe they will change something in the near future. 

“Most important, the standard is getting higher. We can see that with the Polish teams in the Visegrad Cup. Jastrzebie won that cup last month, they beat Nitra, who came second in the Slovak league last year, so there’s more progress there.”