The 54-year-old Canadian moved to Italy in January as head coach of HC Bolzano in the cross-border league EBEL, where he already replaced Beddoes and will now work both for Italy’s strongest club team and for the country’s men’s national team.
“I’m honoured and proud to be the new head coach of the Italian national team. I can’t wait to work with this group of players to build a team with a strong work ethic, with a solid mentality and capable of playing a style of hockey that all Italy can be proud of,” Ireland said. “This is a program in growth and I’m ready to help the team take another step forward on the road to the qualification for the next Olympic Winter Games in Beijing and then give the best in view of Milano-Cortina 2026.
“Although we are facing difficult times, as we move forward, we hope that sport can once again unite people and make emerge their great passion.”
He will start working with the players “as soon as the development of the ongoing COVID-19 virus epidemic gets clearer”.
Italy was promoted to the top division in 2018 where it maintained after the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia and will play at the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for the second time in a row.
The next important tournament for the Italians is the Final Olympic Qualification scheduled for end of August where they will play in a group with host Latvia, France and Hungary in Riga. The winner of each of the three groups will qualify for Beijing 2022.
For Ireland it’s the first job in international hockey beside coaching HC Lugano and Adler Mannheim in the Champions Hockey League and Spengler Cup.
“Since the first meeting, we have shared a vision and philosophy on the same wavelength. Greg is enthusiastic about this new assignment, he has long dreamed of coaching a national team and is delighted to do so with us,” said Stefan Zisser, the sport director of the national team program.