NATIONAL LEAGUE HEAD COACHES – PART 1
Coaches… you might call them “psychologists” by now. It’s very complicated to be a coach nowadays more than ever. You’re the first, and oftentimes the only one, who pays the price when things go south. You must achieve the seasonal targets and at the same time you must make your team play an attractive hockey.
There are those who think that a coach greatly affects a team’s results. Others instead, think that a coach only accounts for about 25% of a team’s results…
The truth is, however, that a team can’t play without a coach. Let’s see, therefore, the 12 coaches who will be in charge – at least initially… – of the National League teams during the 2019-20 season!
Some of them are new, others are making a name for themselves and finally there are some who already won a lot. Let’s get to know them, team by team.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order. In this first article, we present you the coaches of the first six teams… in the second part, we present you the coaches of the remaining six teams.
Important to note: we talk about coaches but nowadays each coach has a staff who plays a crucial role too. When we refer to a coach then, we refer also to all the technical staff.
Sometimes, Luca Cereda is described as the new “Arno Del Curto” in the making… he’s one of the most brilliant coaches in the whole league, after all. Luca never tires of repeating the word “work”, and they are not empty words. He wants everyone, but everyone, to work hard every day. After all, there is no other recipe for success, especially for a team like Ambrì-Piotta. In addition, he also manages to get his team to play a captivating hockey. He started his career as a coach with the Ticino Rockets, which he led to great results during the season of their creation in 2016-17. Afterwards, he was appointed the coach of the first team of Ambrì-Piotta and immediately left his mark. Potentially, he is one of the most interesting coaches in Switzerland for the future. As a player, Luca was a forward and played for Ambrì-Piotta, St. John’s Maple Leafs (AHL) and Bern. With the Bears, he won the title in 2004. It should be noted that his career as a player ended very early due to heart problems.
Kari Jalonen… only the name tells your already a lot about this successful coach. He won wherever he went. As a coach, he won the SM-Liiga (Finland) 7 times and the National League 2 times with Bern. Sometimes, frankly speaking, his team doesn’t play a very spectacular game… or at least not an overly emotional hockey. But the truth is that with him you win, and the players always express very positive opinions about him. Defensively, Bern are rock solid, and the organisation is practically perfect. He is about to start his fifth consecutive season in the Swiss capital and will certainly want to win again. Kari Jalonen as a player instead, was a centre and spent most of his career in Finland, where he wore the jerseys of Kärpat, TPS, Junkkarit HT and Lukko. He also managed to collect about 40 NHL appearances with the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers… He participated with the National Team in 6 World Championships and ended his career as a player in France, where he played two seasons with Rouen between 1994 and 1995.
Antti Törmänen is almost an atypical Finnish… Bienne plays “Finnish style” but nevertheless the coach of Bienne, compared to his fellow countrymen, leaves his players more freedom especially in the offensive zone. He started his career as a coach in Finland, where he coached the U20 of the Blues, where he was an assistant coach of the Jokerit and where he was a coach of the Sport. During the 2011-12 season came in Switzerland for the first time, replacing Larry Huras in Bern. With the Bears, he proved to be a winner by winning the title in 2013. In 2014 then, he returned to Finland to coach the HIFK… He spent three seasons in his homeland, winning the silver medal in 2016. Finally, in December 2017 he was hired as the new coach of Bienne, where he is still today and where he led the team to two consecutive semifinals. As a player, Antti Törmänen was a winger and spent his career mainly in Finland playing for Jokerit. In the middle, he collected 50 NHL appearances with the Ottawa Senators… and finally, he hung up his skates in 2004 after playing the last two seasons with the Södertälje in Sweden.
Christian Wohlwend is one of the most promising coaches in the world and is known for being very direct and telling the truth in this increasingly politically correct world. It’s up to him to prepare Davos in summer inspite of Arno Del Curto for the first time in over 20 years. Christian began his career as a coach coaching the U20 in Thurgau. In 2013 he moved to Ticino, where he was the coach of the Elite-Jr of Lugano and where he also held the role of assistant coach of the first team for a certain period. Afterwards, he returned to Thurgau where he took over the first team in 2016… but after a year, he became Swiss U20 coach and assistant coach of the first team. Roles that he held until last summer, before signing a contract with Davos. Christian Wohlwend as a player on the other hand, was a forward and played mainly in the LNB with the jerseys of Thurgau, Grasshopper and Chur. In LNA, he played only two seasons… the first one back in 1996-97 with Rapperswil and the second one back in 1999-00 with Kloten. In Zurich, however, he collected only 13 appearances.
HC FRIBOURG GOTTÉRON
We are great admirers of Mark French, and last season’s “disappointing” results do not change our minds. Mark French as a coach has spent his career mainly overseas… He was an assistant coach for several years in the OHL at the North Bay Centennials and later served as a coach in the USports at Wilfrid Laurier University. Then, he spent a season as assistant coach in the ECHL at the Atlantic City Boardwalks Bullies… before joining CHL to train the Wichita Thunder. We were in 2008, when he moved to the Hershey Bears (AHL) where he was first an assistant and then a coach. His work, even with young people, earned him a KHL call overseas where for one year he coached Medvescak Zagreb during the 2013-14 season, but it was only a parenthesis. Because he then returned for three seasons to the WHL where he coached the Calgary Hitmen… before moving to Fribourg where he is doing a great job and where he is preparing to start his third season as coach of the Dragons. Mark French player on the other hand, was a striker who did not have a brilliant career … in fact, his career as a player ended in 1996 after four years spent at Brock University, three of which as team captain. In short, he was destined to be a coach.
GENÈVE SERVETTE HC
Maybe not many of you know Patrick Emond… The 54-year-old Canadian has spent the last 11 seasons as a coach of the Juniori Elite of Genève Servette, which has led to the victory of the title in the last two seasons. We don’t know him or the way he makes his team play, we admit it. But they say lots of great things about him! It will be his turn to start the second “era” of the last three years without Chris McSorley on the bench in Geneva. As a player, Patrick Emond was a centre that played mainly in Canada, where he wore the shirts of Sainte-Foy Gouverneurs (QMAAA), Trois-Rivières Draveurs (QMJHL), Hull Olympiques (QMJHL), Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL), Saint-Georges-de-Beauce (QSPHL), Québec Aces (QSPHL) and Charlevoix Caron & Guay (QSCHL). In the middle, and for three seasons, he collected few appearances with Ginevra Servette between 1995 and 1998 when the Eagles were still in LNB. A coach to be discovered, but who promises very well.
Well, those were the first six coaches… see the second article for the remaining six!