Craig Ramsay, the new head coach of the Slovak national team, with assistant coach Vladimir Orszagh. Photo: Andrej Galica
Ramsay: “Want to move the team to a higher level”
The Slovak national team has a new head coach. General manager Miroslav Satan introduced the new head coach Craig Ramsay at a press conference on Saturday.
For the Canadian and long-time NHL coach and player it will be the first job in Europe, but he is very excited about it he said one-and-a-half week after his hiring had become known. According to his words, he wants to improve the Slovak national team to be able to compete with the top teams in the world.
When he sat in front of the Slovak media for the first time, he introduced himself and explained what exactly his philosophy was going to be. His main focus is to move the Slovak national team to a higher level.
“What a wonderful opportunity for me to come here. I am excited for this challenge to work with Miroslav Satan and Vladimir Orszagh. Hopefully we can improve the level of play of the Slovak hockey team. I've been in the business for a little while. I have some ideas how I think we should play. We want to play with a lot of intensity and in order to do that we have to have short shifts. The players have to realize that they have to play hard and they have to compete and be willing to battle. Everybody should be excited to be a part of this program,” Ramsay said in his opening remarks.
This is going to be your first job in Europe. Have you consulted with other coaches you know who already had some experiences with coaching a European team?
Geoff Ward is one guy with whom I coached in Boston and I spoke with him about coaching in Europe, to see what I can expect a little bit. He thinks it would be a good fit the way I coached and what I want from players. The European players exactly understand what I want from them and have the commitment I expect from them. He thought that it would be a good fit and I would enjoy it. He is the guy that I really trust and so I talked to him about this.
Could you give some insight of your philosophy you want to bring to the Slovak national team?
First I want to see the players and see what they can do and what they do the best. My philosophy is as I´ve been saying all the time “safe is death”. I don't like to be safe, I don't like to be laying back and waiting for somebody to make a mistake. I believe in that. I expect everybody to be able to play defence, but I expect everybody to try and score a goal as well. Checkers have to learn to score and scorers must try to check. We will be all together and that´s my main simple philosophy.
Who else will be in your coaching staff?
We 'll sit down and discuss it.. Miro (Satan) had some ideas, but we are still considering some people that I know from the past and some who I don't know and Miro does. We have few days where we can talk where we want to go. I am just happy to have Vladimir Orszagh and Jan Lasak with me and we all going to work well together.
What made you decide to accept the offer coming from Slovakia?
It was pretty simple. Miro called me I think it was Friday and I had two days of golfing and I was feeling pretty good about everything and he surprised me. I didn't tell my wife until next day. When I told her she said we are going. So I was in. I talked to some friends Geoff Ward, Zdeno Chara and other guys to ask about the Slovak hockey where they thought the team was. They were all very excited about the possibility of me coming over and coaching. It didn't take me very long to really make up my mind after that. I tried to cover as many details as I could and I was really excited about doing something completely different for me.
There was no NHLer on this year’s World Championship roster. Are you going to change that in the future, try to phone them and see them?
I would hope that if they come up and they are available I would like to think they may want to come with Miro and myself. He would be more in touch with the NHL players, but I would like to think they would see what's being done here, the progress, and they would want to be involved. We see the growth of this young people and they become better players and I like them around of our hockey team.
Are you a strict coach or a more democratic one?
Democratic? Not so much. I am always willing to listen a little bit. I tell players what to do and they do it. I think it's important. I went through that in Boston with Zdeno Chara. When I first came there I was telling the defencemen to do something and they weren´t doing it. After that we had a nice short meeting and decided that from now on that doors were not open. I tell you what to do and you do it. After that I am a pretty easy guy to be along with. As long as you do what you are told, you can come and talk to me.
Will you stay here in Slovakia during the whole season?
I don´t think the first trip would be very long, but I told Miro that I am going to be available. The second time it would be probably two months I think. In the Christmas time I will have a little break then I will go back again. There is work to be done and I have to learn about the people so we are going to do some scouting and watch the players. I will be very much available, I don't look at it as a part-time job. I want to be a part of the learning curve of the team.
Was the offered salary part of your decision?
The salary was not a big deal. I didn't do it for the money. I did it because the people I knew and the opportunity to have impact on the team and the growth of the hockey here. I was lucky to meet few of the players while I worked in NHL so I am not here for the money.
Where do you see the Slovak national team in two years from now?
I would really like to see the Slovak team competing with the top teams. I always believe I can make a difference. With our staff we can help this team with ideas Miro already has. We can make players and the team better. But we can't do it tomorrow. It's going to take some time and we get young people and we can get them to understand the intensity and commitment to be part of this team. Then we can be better and we can be growing as an organization.