Tomek Valtonen will remain with the Poland national team as head coach.
Tomek Valtonen came to Poland with a lot of fanfare. The former Liiga player had Polish blood and spoke the language. He also was to be the head coach of Podhale, meaning he would be in Poland year round. He was also relatively young for a coach of his experience at 38-years-old. He had a long coaching career in Finland, serving as an assistant on Jokerier U20 team and Finland’s World Junior team before taking over as the head coach of Sport (Liiga) from 2014-18.
Valtonen’s lone season in Poland started with a bunch of potential. Poland did well in a big test at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge facing off against Austria, Denmark, and Norway with a depleted roster. The rest of the season saw controversy after controversy arise some involving Valtonen others not and out of his control. This includes Valtonen taking a job in Germany and players retiring from the Polish national team. This would all come to the head where at the World Championships, Poland came in with a somewhat lackluster roster and would lose one game in overtime to Romania causing the team to the stay in Division 1B for 2020.
Valtonen staying is a huge boost for Poland. While he had consistency problems that other coaches in Poland have suffered through there was a lot that Valtonen did right. He incorporated more youth into the lineup. When the players fought for better conditions, he stood by them. I have to imagine that situation between players and the PZHL would have been worse without him. Valtonen also made some necessary line up changes that benefited Poland tremendously like moving Marcin Kolusz to defense.
This will be the first season in 2 years that Poland will not be looking for a new head coach. The expectation is that Risto Dufva will also be taking more of a larger role with the Polish national team. Dufva served as a consultant last year for team Poland. This season he will be the head coach for GKS Katowice and assistant for the national team. Tommi Satosaari will stay on as the goaltending coach. The team also announced that Jacek Szopinski and Marek Zietara would not be behind the bench next year making it an all Finnish staff.
If you want to keep up with all the offseason news make sure to follow us on Twitter @PolandHockey and like our Facebook page.