International Ice Hockey Federation

Cortina back home

Cortina back home

Germany coach looking forward to Montreal

Published 19.11.2014 11:51 GMT-5 | Author Chapin Landvogt
Cortina back home
German national team coach Pat Cortina during an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
In his third year with the German national team program, Montreal-born Pat Cortina will not only coach the men’s but also the U20 national team.

From Nov. 7-9, Cortina did his “usual” job in Germany. The season for the men’s national team began on home ice with the Deutschland Cup that also stars Slovakia, Switzerland a Team Canada comprised of players from clubs in Europe and Germany in particular. It is an important showcase event for Germany since it’s on home ice in Munich and also a big opportunity to work on his team for the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic next spring.

This year it’s only one of several major tasks this winter, as changes made within the German Ice Hockey Association this past summer have led to him also functioning as the head coach of the German U20 team at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. As such, he’ll be taking the juniors to his native country of Canada for what will undoubtedly be a truly memorable event.

With Leon Draisaitl technically being eligible for the tournament and having already made German ice hockey history with becoming the third overall pick at this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, the German hockey scene is all abuzz about making a statement at the U20 level during the holiday season. And that difficult task will largely be up to Coach Cortina to make a reality.

In light of the incredibly busy winter ahead of him, recently took the opportunity to chat with him about the Deutschland Cup, the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship, and other issues that are currently of great importance in the German hockey scene.

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You’re originally a native of Montreal. Just how special will it be for you personally to be coaching at an IIHF World Junior Championship being hosted by Toronto and your native city, well aware of the huge popularity and importance the event enjoys in Canada?

It’s going to be incredibly special for me, and not only because I’m from Montreal and have been away from Montreal for a while. What makes it special for me is that along with 23 young German ice hockey players I’m going to be able to share what will be an outstanding tournament. Junior hockey during Christmas time has become a tradition. My mother of Italian origin doesn’t follow too much hockey, but she sure knows what the IIHF World Junior Championship means. The tournament is a household product in Canada. Everybody talks about it. Hockey Canada will surely do a great job organizing the tournament and it’s going to be special for our young Germans to play in one of the most renowned ice hockey rinks in the world. For me to enjoy that with them is extremely special.

Of course, the fact that I’ll be close to friends and family during the holidays for only the first or second time in 26 years will make this wonderful, but just thinking about the atmosphere that’ll be present is already bringing shivers to my spine. It’ll simply be outstanding for our German kids to experience that. 20,000 some spectators, live TV coverage, sports journals, interviews, and of course just being on the ice against some of the best players in the world at their age is just an indescribable experience. After the Olympics, that might just be the most exciting hockey tournament there is without wanting to take anything away from the senior World Championship.

One of the players you surely hope will be available for that tournament is Leon Draisaitl, who was taken third overall in last summer’s NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. What do you think this young man means for the German national team over the long run and German ice hockey in general?

We’re extremely happy that Leon has had the success he’s had so far. Having Leon already play NHL hockey at the young age he has could do wonders for the German hockey program. Hopefully he can do for ice hockey in Germany what Dirk Nowitzki has done for basketball, as we really need a face for German ice hockey in the NHL. Naturally, the guys who have been there in the past and who are there now have done a great job and hopefully Leon will be another great ambassador for the sport. He and his success certainly bring much needed attention to our hockey program.

The German Ice Hockey Association underwent some huge changes this past summer and Franz Reindl is now the association’s president. You yourself also exchanged one double-function for another, namely the one mentioned before. What do you feel this new leadership will ultimately mean for German ice hockey? What changes do you feel are on the way?

That’s not an easy question. One of the keys for ice hockey in Germany to grow is that the people involved in ice hockey need to be working together. I think and honestly believe that Franz Reindl and his team were everybody’s choice. I’m quite confident that they’ll be able to bring everybody on board. Everybody here knows about Franz’s experience at the international level. He’s been involved in ice hockey for all his life. German ice hockey is extremely important and it’s dear to his heart, so I think that he and his team are going to do a great job in allowing German ice hockey to develop in a positive, concentrated manner. It was everybody’s choice and for sure, it’s the right choice because this will be about bringing everyone together. Franz Reindl has been around and he can definitely steer this ship the right direction.

The men’s national team was participating in the annual Deutschland Cup against Slovakia, Switzerland, and Canada. What does this tournament mean to you as a coach in preparing for (primarily) the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the Czech Republic next spring?

The Deutschland Cup has become a tradition here in Germany. It’s always an important tournament and it’s our only home tournament this year. The competition there is always good and it’s one of the few chances we have as a national team to be together. That already makes it extremely important. It’s November now and the next time I’ll see the team as a whole will be just before the actual world championship, as you never know what’ll be happening in February, which is a critical time and month for the club teams. The tournament is the start of the national team season and is one of the rare opportunities we have to be together as a team.


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