Our main problem is the lack of ice rinks

Our main problem is the lack of ice rinks

14 Jul 2011 | Henrik Lundqvist

Serbian junior coach Dusan Rudan describes the situation for hockey youngsters in his country and is critical of the World U20 Championship that was held in Mexico last season, where he won promotion to Division 2 with Serbia U20.

Dusan Rudan, 60, spent his entire playing career (1968-83) with Partizan in the Yugoslavian league. After his retirement he studied coaching in Czechoslovakia. From then until now he has coached all the national teams in the old Yugoslavia and now Serbia. He has worked with many coaches from Canada, USA, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden etc.

Last season he finished second in the World U20 Championship Division 3 in Mexico and won promotion to Division 2, but he is very critic to the tournament organization: "Mexico is ugly for me. Not the result, but the organization of the championship. This is the worst of my experiences."

His view of the future of Serbian hockey is hopeful: "Ice hockey in Serbia is in progress and there are more and more children who want to try this sport. Our main problem is the lack of ice rinks".

The lack of rinks makes it hard to establish new clubs. Another problem is to find sponsors for equipment for children.

There are many young promising coaches in Serbia. "Every year foreign coaches come to us and educate them and teach the latest models of training for youngsters".

Of course, the Serbian league is not a top league and to improve the quality some clubs have joined leagues in Hungary and Slovenia. There is also the option for promising players to leave the country. "Many of our juniors go to the USA or Canada to get education and play at colleges", says Rudan. "Marko Kovacevic, who studied at and played for McGill University, now plays for HK Partizan who last season won the Sloleague".

Even if hockey is not one of the most popular sports in Serbia, TV and newspapers follow the results of the clubs. And the games from NHL and KHL can be seen on TV, something that makes Rudan happy. "That is good for popularizing hockey in Serbia".

As mentioned earlier, the World U20 Championship Division 3 in Mexico was a nightmare for Rudan and the other visitors. "Extremely poor organization. Starting from accommodation through to the dressing room."

Rudan names a long list of things that annoys him: Security searching the players’ rooms for alcohol in the middle of the night before important games, no possibility to dry equipment after training sessions, no hot water in the rooms for 3 days, they were assured that they could use the swimming pool from the 1968 Olympics but when they got there it was not in use. The list goes on and Rudan has reported the problems to the IIHF. He also says that some of the other teams were ready to go home earlier because of the situation.

The results of the games, however, were enough to get Serbia second place behind host Mexico and a promotion to Division 2.

"We lost the final to Mexico. They totally deserved to win the first place and I hereby congratulate them once again. We achieved our goal and we hope to succeed next season to fight for survival in Estonia in Division II."

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