• Gronborg builds Sweden

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Wed May 9 21:36:36 2018
    Rikard Gronborg has been a coach in the Swedish national program for eight years. Before that, he played and coached in the USA - an unusual path for a Swede.

    "I went to a camp in Montreal and I was identified," he said of an overseas excursion in 1989 at the age of 21. "Back then, it was before cell phones and computers and stuff, that's how old I am," he chuckled.

    "A few colleges were interested and I thought St. Cloud was a good choice for me - it was a smaller school that was just starting up a Division I program, so
    it was a good spot for me to end up. I thought I was going to be there for a year or two and ended up 20 years. It was one of the best decisions I've made in my life, I know have a lot of connections in North America because of it, and my (American) wife and I will probably end up back there one of these days."

    Unlike many players, Gronborg didn't see himself becoming a coach after his playing days were over. "I made a conscious decision when I was 25 to retire and go back and finish my degrees. At that time, I was just pushing the pucks at St. Cloud, trying to help out there, and wherever I turned someone wanted to
    offer me a job. I'm still in the coaching profession and I thoroughly enjoy it."

    Gronborg's unique exposure to the game on both sides of the ocean has been a benefit to him in Sweden, where he has had success at the U18, U20 and senior men's levels, and it might be what help brings him back as well.

    In recent months, Gronborg has been rumoured to be in the running for a few NHL
    coaching vacancies this off-season, but at this time of year, that's not something he wants to talk about.

    "Right now I'm just focused on preparing the team and having a good run in the World Championship," he said. "You know, it's a long grind." The IIHF World Championship tournament itself last 17 days but building a championship-calibre
    team takes much longer. For most of the world's top national teams, it's a year-long process which really kicks into high gear in early April, once teams start getting eliminated from their league playoffs. At that times, teams will invite several players to participate in a training camp, but most of those players will be cut along the way as others become available.

    "It's a long process and there's a lot of turnover as you try to identify what your World Championship team's gonna look like," Gronborg explained. "That's the tough part as you work with these guys so hard for three weeks and then suddenly let some of them go, but that's part of the process. Some of these guys, even if they don't make it this year, we notice the progress they make and maybe that opens a door for them next year."

    Of this year's recruits, he said: "These guys are doing a good job of fighting for spots. Last year, we had about four guys who made it all the way from our initial camp in early April and played in the World Championship."

    The Swedes invited several young players to their pre-tournament camp this year
    and when the 25-man roster was announced, it included three players who won silver medals at this season's World Junior Championship in Buffalo: goaltender
    Filip Gustavsson and forwards Lias Andersson and Elias Pettersson.

    Andersson, the captain of Sweden's U20 team, had such a good tournament that he
    stayed in the United States after the World Juniors were over, playing seven games for the New York Rangers and 25 for the Hartford Wolfpack in the American
    Hockey League.

    "Obviously, he's going to be a great player," Gronborg said of Andersson. "Right now, it's important to have a look at him in different spots and see if he can excel. It's been a tough schedule for him to fly over from North America
    and start playing with us on the bigger rinks again. He's taking strides and he's one of the guys competing for a spot, for sure."

    The other 19-year-old forward on the team is Elias Pettersson, who is just coming off an exceptional rookie season for the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League, winning the regular-season scoring title and playoff MVP award. As the Lakers went to the finals and won the title, Pettersson didn't get much time with the national team before the Worlds, but made the cut nonetheless.

    "He's also a very good player who did a very good job in the playoffs. He's an offensively talented player, there's no question about that," said Gronborg.

    In goal, Gustavsson is third in the depth chart behind Anders Nilsson of the Vancouver Canucks and Magnus Hellberg of Kunlun Red Star.

    "I think Magnus is doing a great job," Gronborg said of 28-year-old Hellberg, who was named to this year's Olympic team but didn't play in a game. "He had a great run in the KHL this season. This is the first season he's played for the national team but I think he's looked really strong."

    Sweden's roster includes 16 NHLers and only five names from this year's Olympic
    team travelled to Copenhagen. Some of the bigger names include defencemen Oliver Ekman Larsson and John Klingberg and forwards Mikael Backlund, Mika Zibanejad and Gustav Nyquist. Due to the nature of the availability of NHL players at this time of year, Gronborg said: "That's always an unknown, but at the same time we're always glad to have the commitments from the National Hockey League. I think if you want to have success at the World Championship, you need to lean quite a bit on those stars we have from over there."

    And it's Gronborg's familiarity with Sweden's NHL stars that might make him an ideal fit for a head coaching job over there.


    --- SBBSecho 3.04-Win32
    * Origin: TequilaMockingbird Online - Toms River, NJ (1:266/404)