New year, new me, and new Polish hockey. I am in year eight of covering Polish hockey, which is a wild timeline. Polish Puck is a project that started in high school for me, and with each passing year, something in Polish hockey never ceases to amaze me. We are entering a new year with 2020 long in the review mirror. We had a somewhat return to normal at some points in 2021. 2022 unfortunately, started with the cancellation of the IIHF January events, which included the women’s U18 squad playing their first IIHF games in two years. So not the most fabulous start to 2022.
Polish hockey will always have its up and down, but here are my ideas to add a few more ups. These pitches are not what I think will happen, are 100% possible, or even want to some degree. They are what I believe is in the best interest of Polish hockey. One of my pitches from back in 2020 was for the PHL to have one game a week broadcasted on Twitch for free. We now have hockey Thursday streamed on Youtube for free. So why not try to pitch more into existence.
- Bring in an Import U20 Coach
I always feel bad calling for import coaches. All the Polish coaches I have talked to, have always been extremely fair to me in interviews and answering questions. But we have to face facts. The junior system has looked extremely poor under the last two Polish coaches. From 2013 to 2018, Russian Andrei Parfenov, Swedish Torbjörn Johansson, and Canadian David Leger all had stints running the U20 national team. The worst finish during that time was a bronze. Otherwise, Poland took 4 silvers, with one gold, and another sixth-place finish in the next division up. Poland’s junior coaching situation is poor, and the best U20 players need a coach that can help them get to the next level not maintain the status quo.
- Make the MHL U20 Only
The following two pitches are kind of going to go together. The goal will be to make the MHL a more strict U20 league. Of course, that will cause some problems for teams at the lower end like Łódź, who don’t have a strong enough U20 program. So we put in one specific rule to help teams like that. Organizations that do not have a PHL club can play up to five players over 20-years-old in a game. U20 teams that are part of an organization with a PHL club will be restricted to three skaters and ZERO goalies aged 20 to 25. It is not perfect, but I don’t want to kill off any small clubs. Our U20 league will consist of two divisions.
|Gdańsk U20||Cracovia Krakow U20|
|Janow U20||Jastrzebie U20|
|Łódź U20||Oswiecim U20|
|Opole U20||Podhale U20|
|Polonia Bytom U20||PZHL Katowice U18|
|Ponzan U20||Sanok U20|
|SMS Torun U20||Sosnowiec U20|
|Sokoly Torun U20||Tychy U20|
The goal for groups was to try and get the PHL affiliated U20 teams to stick together, as the teams that may be dipping into older players to stay competitive will now be more often facing each other. This will also help with scheduling for the second part of the pitch.
- Create a Hybrid second league
Now with the MHL becoming more of a U20 league. We will have a second senior league that will play their games on the same day as the U20 or PHL clubs. So before or after the U20 or PHL club plays, there will be a second league game at the same arena. This parallel schedule will hopefully cut down on the cost of the second league, along with making it easier to fill rosters for the games. The league will also only be playing 16 to 20 games, so for 8-10 select U20 and PHL games, just a handful of extra players will need to travel with the away team.
These games will be filled with any player of any age. There is no promotion to the PHL, and this league is fully here for players over 20 to continue playing hockey at a competitive level. Polish goalies, PHL healthy scratches, and players needing a tune-up before returning from injury will be the players that get the most time in this league. Teams will be those not currently in the PHL or PHL clubs with enough players for a second squad. PHL clubs that won’t have a second league team can loan players, i.e., the current relationship between Katowice and Janow. My goal would be to have at least six teams, but I want eight.
|Independent||Second Team for PHL squads|
|LKH Łódź||UKS Zaglebie Sosnowiec II|
|KS Naprzod Janow||Torun II|
|Polonia Bytom||JKH GKS Jastrzebie II|
|Gdańsk||Unia Oswiecim II|
Sosnowiec, Oswiecim, and Jastzrebie have enough talent or have faired well enough in the MHL this year, and in my opinion, could support a second-team player-wise. While between KH Torun, SMS Torun, and Sokoly Torun, there should be enough players for this experiment. Bytom, Janow, and Łódź all have rosters built for this league and can grab loans from PHL clubs that will not play in the second league. Gdańsk will be the dream in this one and part of the next pitch. On a side note, I would also take a returning KTH Krynica.
- Find a way to get back into Gdańsk
Hockey fans from Gdańsk deserve so much better than how they have been treated. Gdańsk has shown to be a great hockey market, and losing it is devastating for hockey in the country for a few reasons. First, it is a great hockey market. Second, it helps build the sport in the Northern part of Poland, where Torun is currently alone. The third is it was the second-largest market in the PHL in terms of population. The current number two in the PHL, Katowice, has 190,000 fewer inhabitants than Gdańsk. Given the PHL’s need to grow their tv numbers, losing a team in Poland’s sixth-largest city is not great. I don’t know what needs to be done to return PKH Gdańsk to the hockey map. I will say the PZHL needs to put its foot down on Marek Kostecki’s involvement with hockey in the country and reject any team submitted by him or his ownership.
- Try to bring back players
This last one will need to be coordinated by the PZHL and PHL. The goal will be to help the national team get a quick boost in talent and depth by bringing back Polish players who chose a different country. Adam Kiedewicz, Kamil Sadlocha, and Wojtek Stachowiak all had chances to make a higher-ranked national team but came up short. Could the PHL possibly bring them back? I’m not sure of the exact eligibility, but imagine it would take two years in the PHL at most. For Sadlocha, his NCAA stats are not that far off from what other NCAA imports had come into the PHL with. Kiedewicz has not found his footing at the DEL2 yet and was loaned to the Oberliga. While Stachowiak has yet to find his scoring touch in the DEL, he has a point per game average in the DEL2. Would it be impossible to add them? Probably not, but it would mostly take a good offer from a PHL club.