International Ice Hockey Federation

Fascinating staff facts

Fascinating staff facts

From coaches to physiotherapists, quirks abound

Published 25.04.2017 09:17 GMT-4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Fascinating staff facts
Bob Motzko was already in Team USA's coaching staff three years ago, at that time as an assistant coach. Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images
Hockey is a small world, and sometimes it feels like everyone knows everyone else. But there’s always more to learn about the people in this great sport.

Both on and off the ice, the coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, and other staff members of the 10 World Junior squads in Montreal and Toronto have distinguished themselves in surprising ways.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about a staff member from each nation at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Canadian head coach Dominique Ducharme played five seasons of pro hockey in France, two with Cergy (1997-98 and 1998-99). That community northwest of Paris became the home of the French Ice Hockey Federation in November. It features the spectacular Aren'Ice facility, which cost €27 million.

Czech head coach Jakub Petr, who coached and played in Australia in the early 2000s, holds a degree in travel and tourism from Sydney’s Clarendon Business College.

Danish team physiotherapist Celine Bjerrehoj doubles as an elite badminton player and youth coach.

Finnish assistant coach Marko Ojanen played 15 seasons for five clubs in his country’s top league -- without a mouthguard. He told Ilta-Sanomat earlier this year that it didn’t suit his style because he liked to play with his mouth open.

Latvian assistant coach Karlis Zirnis was a youth coach in Nashville, Tennessee when he volunteered as his native country’s team host for the 2012 World Juniors in Alberta. The former Latvian national U20 team player travelled further than any other volunteer to get there. The 39-year-old Zirnis has come a long way since then, including a stint on Ted Nolan’s coaching staff for the Sochi Olympics.

Russian assistant coach Yuri Babenko was the captain of Dynamo Moscow in 2012-13 during the NHL lockout. When the veteran centre was out of the lineup, a well-known NHLer wore the “C” in Babenko’s absence: Alexander Ovechkin.

Slovak head coach Ernest Bokros played his final pro season on defence with JoKP Joensuu in the Finnish first division in 1992-93. In terms of Czechoslovak talent, he had big skates to fill there. The year before, star defenceman Antonin Stavjana (a six-time IIHF World Championship medalist, including golds in 1985 and 1996) had suited up for Joensuu. They’d cross paths again in 2003-04 when Bokros was the head coach of HC Zlin and Stavjana was the club’s sports manager.

Swedish equipment manager Per-Ake Backman has done his job at 18 straight IIHF World Junior Championships. The 48-year-old Gavle native first worked with the 2000 Swedish team that finished fifth in the home-ice tournament co-hosted by Skelleftea and Umea.

Swiss head coach Christian Wohlwend was born in Montreal since his father managed a hotel here, but moved to Switzerland as a child.

United States head coach Bob Motzko has a direct link to the “Miracle on Ice,” the 1980 Olympic gold medal team's stunning victory over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid. Motzko began his coaching career 30 years ago as an assistant to the late, legendary Herb Brooks with St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.


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