September 15, 2016
Q. Miro, where do you see this team in terms of the progress it's made in gelling together going into the tournament now?
MIROSLAV SATAN: Well, I see it as improving game by game, and I think more and more we are able to play as we want. And what the coaching staff is asking from the players, we see more and more in every game, and last game was the best from our standpoint. As long as we see improvement game by game, I think we are fine. We knew it was going to be a challenge at the beginning to put together a team that never played before together, but I think we are in a -- we're going the right way, and we are in the process of making this happen quickly.
Q. Coach Krueger, just wondering from your extensive international experience having a team Europe like this, how does this affect the concentration of talent and the competitiveness of this tournament in comparison to maybe others?
RALPH KRUEGER: Well, I think we've been speaking about it with any media that followed us. It's a wonderful project for all of these nations. We began selecting players from 12 nations. We've ended up with eight of them being represented here with their flags on their arms. In all of these games you'll see individual flags of the players on their sweaters, and that's the main reason they're playing here.
Number one, we've opened that door, play for your country, play for that underdog nation that you never could challenge the big boys eye to eye, and that's really brought this group together on a common purpose, understanding that we need to get connected on the ice and play a connected game to be competitive.
But we've got so much -- we've had so much pleasure in the process so far, and looking at Frans Nielsen last night at the end of the bench and he's looking down at me and looking at his Danish flag on his arm, and he said, I think I've played Sweden 200 times, and tonight we beat them. There's little stories going on here that are really revealing. The magic of Team Europe and all of these underdog nations coming together to try and be a very, very competitive team beginning here on Saturday.
Q. Just wondering what the differences are between coaching this team and coaching an NHL team.
RALPH KRUEGER: Well, it's less the difference between this team and an NHL team than a team that has an 82-game season and is playing in a three-game season. So it's the tournament format that brings out the child in all of the players that are here, reminds you of your midget days when you had a weekend tournament that you tried to win, and I think that's what we tap into here.
What's difficult and challenging, of course, is how much to actually put into the heads of the players in terms of X's and O's and tactics, where you have an 11-day, three-game preparation phase. So that would be tactically you need to be careful that you don't overload them to the point of freezing them on the ice so they're thinking much more than letting their instincts go. That would be important.
But I think there's a beauty in this tournament in how high-quality the tournament will be and how quickly everything is going to be occurring. At warp speed things are going to happen beginning on Saturday, and everybody here in this room should expect the unexpected. That's what's exciting, too, about this tournament, and we're going to tap into being part of that unexpected.
Q. Miro, could you give us a little insight as to your selection process for the team? Did you just simply try to find the best players, or were you going for some chemistry?
MIROSLAV SATAN: Well, when we started, we were looking at the group of 50 plus players that could fall into -- basically into our Team Europe criteria, and I think we were just trying to like choose the best players possible, but maybe in the last two, three spots when we were discussing a little harder and trying to more find, okay, what are we missing and what do we need to make this team even better and more compatible for this tournament. So that was maybe one of the cases where this came to play and we had some discussion. And as far as the process the who season, we had five scouts watching and reporting to us on all these players to make sure that we -- for sure we have the best possible players for our team.
Q. In the second pre-tournament game, you're down 5-1, you've got nobody going. You come on the second period, bench some guys, get all your old guys, get them extra ice time, and then in your next game all your old guys are playing well and one of your guys you benched got a hat trick. Is that the most brilliant coaching move in World Cup history?
RALPH KRUEGER: Is that a comment or a question?
RALPH KRUEGER: It's really -- the dynamics of building in this short period of time is you come in with all kinds of pre-conceived plans that you have, but I think you need to give the team what it needs when it's asked for. That flexibility is important.
And that second game after we were down 5-1 and being thrashed by the kids from North America was a defining moment for us as a group. We needed to come together very quickly to be able to form an identity, and in adversity, you can form identity. So it was a good opportunity for us to ask those questions.
And I told you after the game, we went with a condensed lineup, less against other players but more to get the core of the group up, up and running. What happened with Leon was just a strong character in his reaction to the situation. He was well-coached by my supporting staff, by Brad Shaw and Paul Maurice with video and some one-on-ones, and we know he's got that talent in him.
It's one of the nice little stories developing inside the team, and we hope to continue building. We're just trying to get better every day, as Leon is.
Q. Miro, despite or beyond the honor of managing this team, what is your feeling regarding the fact that Slovakia in itself was not able to have its own team? On the international level up to 2005, it was still prominent and successful, and obviously times have changed. You used to be a famous member of that Slovakian team. How do you feel about that?
MIROSLAV SATAN: Well, when the news first came out about Slovakia not having -- and Switzerland or Germany maybe also having the same expectations to get their own team. But when it came out, I'm sure that those countries were a little disappointed, especially fans in those countries. But looking from the perspective of the organizers, I think they want to have as strong as possible teams, and they want to give a chance to players like Kopitar and Zuccarello or Vanek, which are single members from each country on our team now, having a chance to compete against the best.
I think we just have to accept this format, and obviously Slovakia doesn't have as many players in the NHL as it used to. I think this new format, whether somebody likes it or not, brings the level of the competition higher, and I think it gives a chance to Team Europe to be successful in this tournament.
Q. Ralph, you were on the other side in Sochi, and you saw what went on to put that Canadian team together. Under what circumstances, knowing those people, the roster they have now, do you see them losing here?
RALPH KRUEGER: Well, they're quite clearly the favorite. The foundation of that group has been built by Mike and the staff since the preparation for Vancouver, and they have so much continuity now in the core of the group, if you look at the players and how they've bought into what it took to win the gold medal on the big ice in Sochi and the sacrifice that players, like a Rick Nash only playing penalty killing and hard away from the puck as an example. I could go through many names of why Team Canada marched through Sochi. But it was just such a group dynamic to do the right things within the tournament, and that's alive in that group.
The leadership is still there in the dressing room and on the bench, and Canada is by far the clear favorite in this process because there's a real nice history going back to 2007 now in that group.
Yeah, I can't -- it'll take a magical day. It'll take a world-class goaltending performance. It'll take something very, very special in a group to be able to beat Canada here on this ice.
Q. You've been labeled the most interesting coach in the world. If you wouldn't mind maybe just discuss your move from hockey to the premiership, back again, and how that all came about and your thoughts along the way?
RALPH KRUEGER: Yeah, South Hampton Football Club is playing a European game as we're sitting here right now on the stage, so it's a complex life, but I think the most interesting thing is how you can go from two different sports and feel the same base dynamics and the importance of culture and the importance of elements that bring you to winning.
For me it's been -- there's a lot of diversity, and I've taken so much of hockey and my life in hockey into the football world in England, and it's exciting to be back here for a month in the hockey world and then at the highest possible level. You know, my goal as a leader is just to learn and grow and to do difficult things. And Franz Reindl and Miroslav Satan asked me to join this journey over a year ago, and it's been running parallel to my football life, which has been a growth experience for sure that I'm very, very grateful for.
Q. I wanted to ask you, what has been the biggest struggle in coaching players from that span a variety of countries, a variety of languages, a have a route of cultures and backgrounds and history within hockey, and then also what have been some of the biggest positives with coaching this kind of melting pot?
RALPH KRUEGER: Well, I think if you look back, what it is, is it's a statement to the National Hockey League and the diversity in the league. Because if I would have done this with Miro 20 years ago, none of the players would have spoken English for starters, so now all these countries having NHL representatives -- they're NHL players, first and foremost, and when they do go to their countries, they take on their culture, but we have an NHL cultured staff. All around them they're being supported by a staff, in the medical department, equipment, media, we've got NHL personnel so they feel at home in that respect because this is their new home. This is their adopted home is the National Hockey League.
It's much easier today than it would have been, so that shows that the game of hockey is expanding into these countries, and I'm sure that these young players like Mats Zuccarello standing right over there right now from Norway will inspire more Norwegians who are 10, 12, 14 right now to watch him play in a World Cup to maybe be NHL players in ten years. So that's exciting.
There hasn't been a big challenge. The character has been -- our leadership group is second to none here. It's fantastic. We've got such strong voices in the room, multiple Stanley Cup winners, so it's not like we're not getting any help. But it's been fun to watch the culture. English is our common language without it being compulsory. It's just the communication that we are able to have because of that is very helpful.
Q. As a Canadian guy, to see the game expand so many other places that Canada is still, I guess is winning these championships but a majority of the NHL players now are not Canadian, does that bring you a sense of pride? How do you feel about Canada maybe not being as dominant in terms of producing players as the rest the world?
RALPH KRUEGER: Well, it's important for the National Hockey League to expand beyond the borders of North America to grow as a business. And I think that it's something that growing up in Winnipeg, I know many of us were able to go over to Europe to build hockey careers, like I have been able to do. And there's multiple Canadians helping to grow the game outside of Canada, as are other nations.
But no, it's exciting to see, and again, I hope that Team Europe inspires all of these countries to look for another level, and the NHL will just have a deeper pool of players if that happens.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports