The coronavirus emergency means that everything rightly takes a back seat. Obviously also sport recedes into the background and even more ice hockey that especially in Italy is considered a second-rate sport.
For ice hockey passionate in Italy, however, there is some good news. Greg Ireland has been appointed the National team head coach!
We had the chance to follow the 54 years old Canadian coach from close in Switzerland where he coached Hockey Club Lugano in 2011 – when he helped the team to survive in the playout in 4 games – and then, most and above all, between January 2017 and March 2019. During the two seasons and a half in Lugano, Greg led the team one time to the semi-final, one time to the final – lost against the ZSC Lions in a very cruel way at game-7 of the series – and one time to the quarterfinals.
Especially the 2017-18 season was a masterpiece. Lugano wasn’t among the favourites for the title and, to make matters worse, the team lost several key players right on the eve of the playoffs during a cursed game played in Davos. All that, however, didn’t prevent the Bianconeri – that were a team made of real warriors – from gifting their fans with incredible emotions. Lugano made it all the way to the final and then lost it against the ZSC Lions. Doesn’t matter, the fans were so darn proud of their team.
In Switzerland, Greg Ireland proved to be a coach capable of squeezing blood from stone. A knowledgeable communicator, a coach capable of assigning each player the right role and a coach capable of making his team going beyond the limits. Let us not forget, moreover, that Greg is a gentleman and a real sportsman, which is another plus. His style of play is mainly the Canadian one… We mean, to make an example connected to football, the teams coached by Greg Ireland don’t play the “tiki taka” but rather the “kick and rush”. De gustibus. We are so much into Canadian style, a hockey made of grit and emotions.
In Bolzano, the team that he had coached after his experience in Lugano, people had the chance to know what he’s all about. In a short time, the 54 years old Canadian made the Foxes a real tough nut to crack and his team had been doing great also during the playoff before the season got cancelled because of the coronavirus emergency.
Perhaps this last experience, among other things, really convinced the Italian hockey federation to appoint him the new National Team coach in this very important historical period. Let us not forget in fact, that in 6 years the Olympic games in Milano and Cortina are scheduled. This is enough time in order to revive Italian hockey and try to take at the Olympic tournament a team that can gift the fans with many emotions.
We mean, we’re pretty sure that Greg can be the right man in the right place. Provided that, obviously, he is given free rein. Let’s see what makes us think that he can be the perfect person for the job…
Greg Ireland is very experienced, and he is a real hockey man. He started his coaching career in the early 90s in North America. Overseas, he gained a lot of experience coaching both in the junior leagues and in the AHL. Moreover, he’s been in Europe since the 2015-16 season and this allowed him to settle in our continent. Firstly, he coached Mannheim in the DEL, where things didn’t go particularly well. This also because the Eagles of Mannhein seemed to be fulfilled, after having won the title the year before. Then, he spent two seasons and a half in Lugano and finally he coached Bolzano. His experience and knowledge are a godsend for Italy, a team that is very “hungry” but that has a lot of limits.
Greg Ireland proved in Switzerland that he can get the best out of his team and that his work ethic is excellent. We believe that he can do the same also in Italy. The job in the “bel paese” will not be easy but if there is something Greg is not scared of… this is hard work. He’s enthusiastic like a child and has the mentality of a senior. That’s a perfect mix that can help take Italian hockey to the next level.
Do or die games
If we exclude the last season in Lugano, where however there were several problems on and off the ice… Greg Ireland showed that his teams are at the top of the game during the post-season. This fact, when it comes to a National League, is a great thing. It’s true that Greg has no experience when it comes to coaching a National Team. But it’s also true that a National Team basically always plays in a “playoffs mode” since it must be at its best for a short period of time. The Canadian coach can get the best out of his men right when the games are “do or die”.
As we said, Greg Ireland is a real hockey man. Italy can take advantage of Greg’s knowledge in order to improve at all levels and try to take the whole movement to the next level. Again, it will take some time but, frankly speaking, Italian hockey is in a very bad shape right now. Nevertheless, there is great passion among the players and the hockey passionates, even though ice hockey in Italy is only a fringe sport.
We mean, in our opinion Greg Ireland can really be the right man in the right place. In this particularly historical moment, ice hockey in Italy needs a leader who can show the way to a better future. And if there is an adjective that comes to our mind when it comes to Greg Ireland… this adjective is “leader”.
From our side, we wish all the best to Greg and Italy. Enjoy!
Greg Ireland career
|S||Team||League||Role on Team||Notes|
|1992-93||Oakville Blades||COJHL||Head Coach|
|1993-94||Oakville Blades||OPJHL||Head Coach|
|1994-95||Caledon Canadians||MTJHL||Head Coach|
|1995-96||Caledon Canadians||MetJAHL||Head Coach|
|1996-97||Caledon Canadians||MetJAHL||Head Coach|
|1997-98||Caledon Canadians||MetJAHL||Head Coach|
|1998-99||Dayton Bombers||ECHL||Head Coach|
|1999-00||Dayton Bombers||ECHL||Head Coach|
|2000-01||Dayton Bombers||ECHL||Head Coach|
|2001-02||Dayton Bombers||ECHL||Head Coach|
|2002-03||Dayton Bombers||ECHL||GM/Head Coach|
|2003-04||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||Asst. Coach|
|2004-05||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||Asst. Coach|
|Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||Head Coach||Replaced Danton Cole midseason|
|2005-06||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||Head Coach|
|2006-07||Grand Rapids Griffins||AHL||Head Coach|
|2007-08||San Antonio Rampage||AHL||Head Coach|
|2008-09||San Antonio Rampage||AHL||Head Coach|
|2009-10||San Antonio Rampage||AHL||Head Coach|
|2010-11||HC Lugano||NLA||Head Coach||Joined Mike McNamara for the post-season|
|2011-12||Owen Sound Attack||OHL||Head Coach|
|2012-13||Owen Sound Attack||OHL||Head Coach|
|2013-14||Owen Sound Attack||OHL||Head Coach|
|2014-15||Owen Sound Attack||OHL||Head Coach|
|2015-16||Adler Mannheim||DEL||Head Coach||Fired on February 11, 2016.|
|Adler Mannheim||Spengler Cup||Head Coach|
|2016-17||HC Lugano||NLA||Head Coach||hired Jan 16th 2017, replacing Doug Shedden|
|2017-18||HC Lugano||NLA||Head Coach|
|2018-19||HC Lugano||NLA||Head Coach|
|2019-20||HC Bolzano||EBEL||Head Coach||Replaced Clayton Beddoes on January 2nd, 2020|