Tampere (from our newsletter) – Even when he took office, he spoke openly about gold. He still has great goals, even if he works humbly. In short, Kari Jalonen changed a lot in the national team. Now his mission begins, when he wants to ruin “his” Finns for their championship and turn it into a great Czech triumph.
I am pleased with the process we have been through in those six weeks. Each of the last matches had a slightly different course and I was pleased with how we reacted to it. I’ve seen that players don’t have to think about the system, tactics and play instinctively. This is the most important message for me. We didn’t have much training during the tournaments, which will be similar at the championship, but the players quickly mastered the system. We have great names in the lineup, but most of all we need to create a team where everyone gets their role.
Czech players who work abroad often say that they must be better than the locals in order to earn the contract. Do you feel the same with you?
I came here to give the representation some of my experience and knowledge. And of course I want to help the whole Czech hockey, because I want to share my tactics and game system with the coaches of the extra league or the 1st league, if they want to. That’s why I settled in Prague, because I take it as a long-term project.
I also asked because, for example, Václav Varaďa recently said in a popular TV talk show that the Czech national team should have a Czech coach. Vladimír Růžička speaks similarly.
They are both successful coaches with years of experience and I fully respect them. But maybe Czech hockey just needs an outside view, a different way of training and something new. I believe that I will convince these coaches and that I will join their history in the history of Czech hockey.
But what are Czech players different from Finnish ones?
When they go on the ice, they are more relaxed. I am laughing. The Finns show concentration and are like mathematicians during matches, the Czechs are more like artists. And that’s a good feature. When I played in Sweden, it was a meeting for a change, a meeting. However, understanding the different nationalities is crucial for a coach to be successful.
But the coach wants to hold the system. Isn’t there a better “mathematician” than an “artist”?
Maybe it’s easier with the Czechs than with the Finns. They are “programmed”, but the “artists” I am surprised in a positive spirit. The Czechs also hold the system, repeating the things we want and which lead us to victory. They are fast on the ice, they are good at hockey and I have to praise.
But don’t the Czechs lack self-confidence? It is said that people in the western part of the world have much more than we do.
But there’s a coach from that. His – and therefore mine – job is to pump confidence into the players. But it’s easier when you win, when you score goals, so self-confidence naturally grows. Everyone needs it in sports. And when athletes are missing, when they are worried, there is a coach to support and help him.
If the Czechs had to say three characteristic words about Finland, they would probably choose: Sauna, vodka, Nokia. Is this the right choice?
Sauna for sure. Nokia too, especially if the company is from the same city as me, Oulu. And vodka? It’s been a long time since she was an integral part of us. It’s not like before and since I don’t drink vodka, I would choose beer as the third word.
The Finns would probably choose the Czech Republic as well, wouldn’t they?
Yes. They would add Prague, because it is a beautiful city and above all the historical center will get everyone. The Finns know this and love to come here. But now we traveled a lot with the national team all over the country and I saw a lot of beautiful places outside of Prague. You have something to be proud of. And as a third word, I would choose food. It is different than in Finland, but very interesting.
What do you like about Czech cuisine?
I love tartare. However, it is a bit of a heavy meal, especially when beer tastes so hard for him in the evening. And I also like the local duck.
Finland has been successful on all hockey levels in the last decade. What is it?
In 2009, when we finished seventh in the juniors and did not advance from the quarterfinals in the adult championship, we held a large conference attended by coaches, players, legends, referees, team leaders, journalists and agents. It was a wide field and we realized in the discussion that we need to change our hockey education as soon as possible. We focused on individual training and mental development. We had a desire to start doing something different and, above all, to change it together. That is why since then we have been sharing all the information with the clubs, we are trying to educate each other, to move. It was then that the key moment that we won gold in Beijing this year took place. We understood that we no longer have players like Saku Koivu or Teemu Selänne, but that we wanted to raise them again.
And in two years you have won gold in Bratislava.
It was more of an interplay of circumstances. The results of this transformation were seen in the senior category after about ten years, when we won gold again in Bratislava. Our central motto is: Together. We are a small country with 5.5 million inhabitants and some 70,000 registered players. If we all played on our own sand and didn’t work hard, we couldn’t compete in the world.
Especially after the Olympics, Finland now expects another success in the domestic tournament. Will it be special for you that the World Cup takes place right here?
It’s a blessing for me and I’m excited about it. And I believe that the Finns will support us as well. Probably not on May 24, when we play against them, but in other matches they could wish the Finns on another substitute.
But you want to collect gold from your homeowners, don’t you?
Yes. I don’t really understand the words when someone says they’re going to the championship to enjoy it. No! We have to be focused on every next match that is ahead of us, and with gradual steps we come to the match with number 10, ie the final. We want to win and I will say it out loud because I believe we have a chance to do something big. Yes, you need luck for that, but at the same time everyday hard work. I know that the Czechs have been waiting for the medal for a long time and that it is important to motivate children and their parents to choose hockey.