International Ice Hockey Federation

Slovenia selects new coach

Slovenia selects new coach

Zupancic: “Expectations have to be high”

Published 02.11.2015 17:17 GMT+1 | Author Mateja Vodiskar
Slovenia selects new coach
Nik Zupancic behind the Slovenian bench at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Korea where the Slovenes earned promotion two months after the historic quarter-final qualification at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Photo: Soohan Kim
The Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia confirmed Nik Zupancic as new head coach of the Slovenian team.

Zupancic will succeed Matjaz Kopitar, who resigned after Slovenia’s relegation from the top division at the recent 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the Czech Republic.

The 46-year-old former player, who represented Slovenia in 11 and earlier Yugoslavia in three World Championship events, will not need a lot of time to get to know the players. He was an assistant to Kopitar in the last four-and-a-half years and the majority of Slovenian hockey experts saw him as a candidate for the new coach right away.

“It is very important that the guys already know me and I know them. That means that we will not need time to adapt to one another. There will of course be some changes in the training and play since every coach has his own views and understanding of hockey, but I believe we will make the adjustments in no time,” says Zupancic, who is convinced that the expectations should be high in order to achieve good results.

“Of course we were disappointed after the World Championship in Ostrava – especially after the great result at the Olympic Games a year before. But now it is not time to mourn. We have to start working immediately and believe we can advance to the top division again and stay there for some years.”

The Slovenian team will compete in two international tournaments before the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Krakow, Poland.

In November, Zupancic will lead his team for the first time as a head coach at a tournament in Katowice, Poland, and in February the team will play in Linz, Austria.

At the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, the Slovenes will battle for the two spots for promotion with neighbouring rivals Austria, Italy as well as host Poland, Japan and Korea.

Apart from being an assistant coach on the national team, the former centre was also active as a head coach in club hockey.

Last season Zupancic surprisingly won the Slovenian championship with Acroni Jesenice. In the finals the underdog was better than the only professional team in Slovenia, Olimpija Ljubljana, which plays in the Austrian-based EBEL, and won the final series for the Slovenian title 3-1.

However, Zupancic will not continue his success story with Jesenice in the upcoming season. He believes he could do it if there were possible national team candidates in Jesenice but since the club plays only in the second-tier Austrian-Slovenian INL, Zupancic finished his work in Jesenice to fully focus on his duties as national team coach.


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