Monten’s last opportunity
by Risto Pakarinen|23 DEC 2021
Tomas Monten is in his final tournament as Sweden's U20 head coach. 
Once a coaching wunderkind, Sweden’s World Junior team’s head coach Tomas Monten is now a veteran. And still, at 44, in his coaching prime.
When he emerged as a promising coach behind the Djurgarden bench in the Swedish SHL thirteen years ago, he was 35, and looked 25. In 2014, he became the assistant coach of Sweden’s under-20 team and in 2016, he took over the team as head coach.
But this year’s tournament will be his last hurrah. It’s time to pass on the baton to Magnus Havelid, who takes the step up from the under-18 team.
“Yes, this is the end, but it’s been fun six years. It’s a long time but at the same time, it flew by fast. What makes this job so rewarding is the opportunity to work with the best players in the country, in each age group. That is really cool,” Monten told
Surprisingly, Sweden has won the World Juniors gold only twice, and the first one came in 1981, when Monten was just three. For a hockey nation that has since 1981 won just about everything else many times over, and that is currently the biggest pipeline of players from Europe to the NHL, it’s practically unfathomable.
Monten got close in 2018 when his adepts made it all the way to the final, which they lost 3-1 to Canada who scored the game-winner with 1:40 remaining in the third period and then added an empty netter 30 seconds later.
A pill so bitter for Swedish players and coaching staff to swallow that they removed the silver medals from their necks as soon as possible, leading to a three-game suspension for Monten. It was later repealed by The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) because according to IIHF regulations, only the players have the obligation to wear the medals "around the neck in respectful manner for the duration of the closing ceremony and the following post-game mixed zone and media conference procedures."
For Sweden, last year’s tournament was a Greek tragedy or an action comedy as players and coaches were dropping like flies, due to COVID-19. In the end, Sweden had emergency coaches behind the bench, one of them famously the team’s media officer.
This year, the Swedish federation has added testing of the vaccinated coaching staff and have padded their coaching staff – just in case. Monten is ready for one last tournament with the boys.
And he’s fired up, with the finish line in sight, even if it’s not quite like Monten imagined it when the decision was made. His last tournament was supposed to be at home in Sweden, but due to the pandemic, Gothenburg’s turn to host the tournament was pushed back to 2024.
“It just wasn’t meant to be. We’ve been close a couple of times. I thought we had a team that could go all the way both in Buffalo in 2018 and in Ostrava in 2020 [when Sweden won bronze],” he says.
And he’s realistic about his team.
“We have great goalies, our defence is solid, but we don’t have too many forwards who stand out in their club teams, not many of team are in big power play roles, for example,” he says.
He hopes that William Eklund who began his season with the San Jose Sharks and Alexander Holtz who comes to the tournament from the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate Utica Comets.
With only one shot left, Monten hopes it’ll be his best one. 
“There’s a little extra pressure, I’d like to win – but my first priority is to get to Edmonton,” Monten says with a chuckle.
So far so good. Monten’s already in Red Deer. As Woody Allen once put it, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”