The Bears have started sweating and getting ready for their second season in the Kontinental Hockey League, and this week they're off to Plzen, Czech Republic for training camp. On Monday the team had a media conduct session, and before they reign down on the Velesajam rink, we managed to catch Medvescak's head coach Chuck Weber to get a word about his first impressions of the team, the players, how the preseason is going, and expectations...
As is standard before each season, the players all had tests done so that the coaching staff has clear knowledge of their physical and health conditions, and after that came intense icy drills.
What did the first practices on the ice and in the gym uncover about the players and the team as a whole?
''The athletics team did a great job putting together incredible individuals, players with character. Since I've had the opportunity to coach several of them, and some I know from being on opposing teams, I know what to expect from them and what they can offer me on the ice. There are also the ones that I am just getting to know. But in any case this is a new beginning for all the players. Now we just have to figure out who will fare best with who in lineups, who are the most compatible, in order to become an excellent team. It's important to find the chemistry amongst players, the team as a whole, as well as in each lineup. Although, I can already say that they're starting to connect and we're starting to learn what us coaches are expecting and what our vision is. Their work ethic is outstanding. As far as the shape they're in, you can tell that they've been working out over the summer, but the work is just about to start for them because we want to start off the season with them in top shape. Of course, there will be mistakes because they are an inevitable part of the preseason. That's why we have this warm-up period before the start of the season which we're going to use to its full advantage."
On Tuesday you are heading off to Plzen for training camp where you will play your first prep games with Czech Republic's Slavia, Karlovy Vary, and Sparta, and following that you're going to the Straubing tournament in Germany where you will go up against Straubing and KAC or Augsburg. That will be the perfect time for the guys to come together as one.
''Definitely. The games in Czech Republic and Germany will help our team come together not just in the locker room, but also on the ice and will form good habits. We expect to improve and get better day in and day out. If every player improves each day, then the team will grow in the right direction. All together we're going to have seven prep games, which should be enough to warm us up. Then when we get home we're going to have to have two final ones before the start of the season. What the result of the prep games will be, we will see. Winning is always important regardless of the type of game because they build confidence. We're going to try and come out of every game as winners. We want to be a team that makes Zagreb and Croatia proud to represent them in the KHL. We're going to bite the puck every time we hit the ice. Are we going to win every game? Probably not because that's the reality of it, but we're going to try, not just in the preseason but in the regular season as well."
We're guessing the goal for the 2014-15 season has already been set?
''Last season the team, and the club in general, did a massive job and put down the foundation that we now have build on. The goal is the playoffs, and the hope is always to win the championship, as well as to do well at the Spengler Cup. This will be my first season in the KHL, but we have a great coaching staff - Fedorchuk, Letang, Ratej, and Mohorič who will be helping me and will incorporate my philosophy into their knowledge. From a hockey perspective this will be a special season for me. I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to work in the KHL, and to take part in the Spengler Cup."