Czechs hire Kari Jalonen
by Derek O'Brien|10 MAR 2022
Kari Jalonen will be Czechia’s new head coach after a disappointing Olympic campaign, ending a long tradition of home-grown coaches.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
On Thursday afternoon, the Czech Ice Hockey Association announced that Kari Jalonen is the new head coach of the Czech men’s national team. 

Jalonen, 62, will be joined behind the bench by assistant coaches Martin Erat and Libor Zabransky.

“The members of the (CIHA’s) executive committee reiterated that Kari Jalonen is a guarantee of the highest coaching quality and they have no reservations about it,” a spokesman told 

Jalonen becomes the first non-Czech to head the country’s national team since the 1992 split of Czechoslovakia. The last foreign-born coach of the national team was Canadian Mike Buckna in the 1930s and ‘40s, who led Czechoslovakia to a gold medal at the 1947 World Championship and a silver at the 1948 Winter Olympics. 

As head coach of the Czech national team, Jalonen replaces Filip Pesan, who was dismissed along with assistant coaches Martin Straka and Jaroslav Spacek following a disappointing ninth-place finish at the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing. It marked the first time that the Czechs had ever finished worse than seventh at an Olympic or World Championship tournament.

A native of Oulu in northern Finland, Jalonen established himself as a player for hometown Karpat in the late ‘70s to begin an 18-year career as a player that included two seasons in North America and 42 games in the NHL for the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers in the early ‘80s. In 1980, he captained the Finnish national U20 team to a silver medal at the World Juniors in He represented Finland at six World Championships as well as the 1981 Canada Cup. 

He retired and went into coaching in the late ‘90s.

While the Czechs have no previous experience with a foreign coach, Jalonen has plenty of experience internationally. He was head of the Finnish national team in 2015 and 2016, winning a silver medal at the latter World Championship before being succeeded by current coach Jukka Jalonen (no relation). Jalonen is also no stranger to Czechia, having been head coach of Lev Prague in the KHL. In 2013/14, Jalonen guided Lev to within one game of the Gagarin Cup, losing a seven-game final to Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which still marks the only time that a non-Russian team has advanced to the league’s final series.

Michal Repik, currently an active player for the Czech national team as well as Extraliga club Sparta Prague, played for Jalonen back in 2013/14 Other current active players not far removed from national team appearances who payed for Jalonen include Jiri Sekac, Michal Birner, Petr Vrana and Jakub Nakladal. 

Jalonen’s first task as Czechia’s new coach will be the upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, which will take place in Jalonen’s home country, 13-29 May in Tampere and Helsinki. There, the Czechs will be looking for the nation’s first medal since 2013.