Interview 04.08.2017

Fox: "With quality internationals and native players we'll be dynamic"

The Bears Sports Director Aaron Fox spoke about the preseason, about transfers and expectations of EBEL comeback.

Aaron Fox came to Medvescak in 2009 as a player in club's first season in EBEL. Fox firstly gained his status as a player and now he is starting his fifth season as a Sports Director, architect of this team. In the build-up to the new season we asked him a few questions about the team, expectations, plans. There is no better person than Fox to be asked about those questions.

In September this year, after a short break, Medvescak continues to play in EBEL. How do you look on new challenges in the club and how challenging is it for a person in your spot?
- What I like about our current situation is that we have a realistic chance to win. Our budget is still in the lower bottom of the league and we have to fight with the difference, but I think we can be fourth or fifth before the playoff starts. Our goal is from the start to be a playoff team and we want to build some old rivalries and get our fans to travel to away games. Interesting and challenging part of my job this summer was to find some great European players and few younger Americans who are hungry for success. It is always difficult to work against teams who have more money than you, but I think we will be successful.  Lack of money should be seen as an opportunity because we have shown before that with small finances you can get great result.

You spent one season playing for Medvescak in EBEL. Can you compare EBEL from those days and today when Medvescak is making it's comeback?
- I can compare players we had then and players that we have now on our roster. I think we are much stronger now. We have only two players who played for us last season and other teams have 12 to 18 players from last season and just strengthen their sqaud where they need it. We are a completely new team and it will take time to get everyone in great shape and this is why we have four week training camp. It was important to start with Connor where we left of last season because he has done a great job when Gordie left the team and I'm looking forward that Connor will lead us to new sports and organizational challenges.

With which challenges will coach Cameron cope with in the preseason and in EBEL this year?
- It is true that I scouted players and brought them to the club. Now I leave players to him and Connor will build the system and evaluate them in next four weeks. This is why he came back to Medvescak. We have same beliefs in hockey and understand the game in the same way. I'm sure that players we brought in will help us play and win in the way we want to. I know there is no other coach in this league more prepared then Connor. He learned a lot from Gordie, his father coached in NHL for years and he can ask them for advice in any moment. That's very imporant in this job. Connor has taken his job very seriously this summer, informed himself about the league, he has seen a lot of games from last few seasons, especially Medvescak games and he can find things from which we will benefit against other teams.

What is the plan for preseason this year?
- For now we have five preseason games and every one of them is played away. We didn't knew until recently when will we come to the Dom Sportova Hall because of some construction works. We are trying to find a team for our preseason game at home in late August, but we didn't have success recently. We are aware of our problems with the preseason, but in those five games we are gonna prepare ourselves very good for our first home game in EBEL against Alba Volan. There are a lot of factors on which we decide to play a preseason game against someone. This year we are spending four weeks in the Velesajam and Dom Sportova Hall. We're playing against Lyon in Maribor, Alba is calling us in months now to play at their tournament and in Villach we have a lot of friends and it wasn't tough to agree with them. Our trainings started yesterday and this weekend the team will have it's first serious training session. If everything goes according to plan, fans will be able to see one of our training sessions next week.

Besides coach Cameron we have Dylan Beston as his assistant. Have you completed the coaching staff for the new season?
- Carter Beston-Will will be our video coach and Peter Skrabelj will be our goalie coach. Skrabelj will be with us for ten days during the training camp and during the season he will spend few days in a week with goalies to analyse games with them and to prepare them for next challenges. I hava a good feeling and believe in this coaching staff.

How challenging is for you to build a good roster within the budget and within the maximum points range?
- Rules are rules and we need to respect them. What is sure is that our roster will be within the rules by the start of the season. At this time it may look as some of our players don't fit in, but we could make some changes by the start of the season. We also have a lot of players with Croatian citizenship which is making life easier for us. I don't want to talk about some calculations that are wondering around because they aren't correct. I have to say that it's not easy to build a good squad within the limited budget and within rules, but I don't see it as a problem, I see it as a professional challenge. It takes a lot of time to decide which player will fit correctly within the team and play perfectly in our system. Fortunately, players hear a lot of great stuff about the fans, about the city of Zagreb and it's a pleasure for them to play here. Medvescak and Zagreb have a great reputation in the world of hockey. I think that we signed great players and that we are gonna be dynamic with some great internationals and few native players.

This year there will be a lot of young Croatian and Slovenian players in the roster. What do you expect from them?
- The rule is very clear: who deserves a chance to play will get his time on the ice. Nobody will be granted anything. We have 15 offensive players and nine men in the defence. That gives a lot of chance for every player because injuries happen, season is long and we have to fulfill our expectations. If you are a young Croatian player, that doesn't give you the right to think that you have a guaranteed position. But if you are a great young player and give it your best every week than you deserve a spot in this team. Coach leads the team, he is responsible for it and he decides who deserved it's chance during the preseason. Young players need to prove they can play at the professional level and that is one of the biggest challenges of my whole job. If you look at Tikkanen or Koskiranta, they work and play as professionals and we want from our young players to look like that.

Which characteristics should a player have when you bring him to the Den?
- It is different with all of them because every player has it's own role. I want them to be professionals and that I don't have to worry about them. I want players who play with passion. If you want to be successful you need to have diversity and not a bunch of robots. This year I wanted to bring players who played great at European level. You have Sondre Olden who played as a foreigner in Sweden where you have to be great if you want to play as a foreigner. He is a born winner and will help us win a lot of games. Market also changes because you have players who weren't available in May that are available in July for a lower price than expected. There are players who had their contracts ready but decided to play for another team. Yet someone can go away if he wants during the preseason if he gets better offer. We are not a rich club and I believe that fans and sponsors understand that. We showed that together we can achieve great things and I believe in the partnership between players and fans.

Can we expect some new additions to the roster or is the squad completed for this season? Do we have any players on the tryout contract?
- This preseason we don't have any players on tryout contract. We will make changes if they are needed, but I'm comfortable with this team and in this way we give everyone a chance. I don't expect big changes, but they are always possible in sport.

What are your expectations from this season? Is it just a place in the playoffs or you want to win EBEL?
- If we don't make it to the playoffs, it will be very dissapointing. But with this team I don't really think about that. There are three teams financially above everyone else and those teams are KAC, Salzburg and Vienna Capitals. Then there are three or four very competitive teams and I think that we are in that range. Many things will depend on our health and three or four offensive players will need to prove they can play at this level. We need their help and the help from our goalie. Krošelj had his ups and downs in the last period when  he played for us but this is a whole new level and if we look at his statistics and that he is a goalie for olympic national team, than we see that he is a great goalie. He played great in the Olympic games qualifiers against Belarus and Denmark and if you give me any other goalie in this league instead of Krošelj, I would still pick Krošelj. I believe he can help us win a lot of games.

What is your favorite moment from the playing days in Medvescak and EBEL?
- It is tough because I had a lot of fun moments that year. I remember that one time we were losing 7:1 at home and crowd was standing and cheering through last 11 minutes of the game. In that kind of moment you realize this place is something else. Then you have a situation in which you are trailing 2:0 against the first seed in the playoffs, bring your second goalie Krošelj in the third game and he leads you to 4:2 win in the series against Graz. Eight years later I believe Krošelj can lead us to new wins.