Josef Jandac, head coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk agreed to become a columnist for our website. He shares his feelings about what happened on and off the ice in KHL. To allow for more direct communication with the fans, we let Josef talk in the first person. Today KHL.ru presents you the third installment of Josef Jandac’s blog.
Usually, New Year celebrations are associated with rich tables, and players are used to living under a less strict regime. Some coaches aren’t thrilled with it as they start wondering in what shape the players will come after the celebrations. However, as Metallurg was playing in the traditional Spengler Cup in Switzerland, I didn’t have this problem this year. We only had two free days: on December 30 and 31. In the night between January 1-2 we got back home from Davos, and already that same evening we had a regular practice session.
Generally speaking, I never had any problem with my players’ condition once vacations are over. In the Christmas period, the Czech Republic teams play and practice with the same calendar. It’s almost not possible to have players overweight. During the summer, however, when the players have to practice according to an individual plan, it’s another thing. In the offseason, some players indulge too much and then, stepping down the scales, feel embarrassed.
Anyways, in the latest few years, the players became much more professional. Of course, I’m not naïve, and I don’t pretend to think that they stop drinking beer and visiting fast-foods at all. However, athletes indulge in this kind of behavior less and less often. The primary responsibility for this positive change is the games’ calendar. Lately, there was an increase in the number of played games, which often happen every second day. It’s hard to relax too much after a game as players need to be always fit. Thus, players must adhere to what is requested to them.
If anything happens anyways, the sanctions are a universal practice. Today, most of the contracts include points in which all the fines for infractions are listed. The culprit is cut back on salary and assigned to extra conditioning practices, after which the desire to repeat the violations is generally reduced. In the most extreme case, the contract is terminated. However, to speak the truth, I’m not a fan of the most radical measures. I always try to understand why a player makes an infraction if he somewhat needed to do so. Usually, it’s hard to call me a particularly strict coach.
However, if infractions are repeated, then proceeding with radical measures is often necessary. But for the first time, a good telling-off is enough. This kind of approach helped me many times. If you treat your players with respect, they will repay you. There is just one rule: never show kindness if it’s detrimental to the team. The interest of the team is always higher than the benefit of a single player.
In these days, particular attention is dedicated to the World Junior Hockey Championship in Canada. As tradition dictates, the Russians fought for a medal, while the Czech Republic suffered from a quarterfinal exit. Of course, one wonders if there is such a significant difference between our countries. Judging by the most recent results, it looks like so. First of all, the Russian coaches can enjoy the benefit of having a richer choice. Their Czech colleagues have modest opportunities, also because hockey in my home country isn’t living its best times.
If comparing young players of our countries, you can say that the Russians look individually better than their Czech counterparts. However, sometimes their desire to defeat the opponents one-on-one comes to the expense of the team’s plays. They play the puck too much, and this disrupts the interactions of the whole unit. Also, Russian players look physically more mature than the Czechs, and I think that this is because many Russian young players already play pro hockey in the KHL and the VHL.
In the Czech Republic, junior players develop much later. I often had to face this situation: a player is fast, can play tactically, has a good stride and a strong shot. However, he’s not ready to undergo all the battles for the puck during his whole shift against older players. This is a great handicap for the modern Czech hockey. In part, this can also explain the inability in battling on the opponent’s slot. However, this is also a question of character, or to be more exact, the lack of it. There are players who, despite the coach’s indication, skate around the perimeter and never go to the crease, where the defense shoves and beats, sometimes very painfully.
As we used the word “painfully,” this is a terrible, hard moment. I am talking about the recent building blast. Players wore mourning bands in the recent game against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. All the Metallurg employees – coaches, players, attendants – express sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims. This tragedy once again reminds how fragile and defenseless human life can be.