Norway’s national ice hockey team not only won a World Championship match on their own national day, the 17th of May, on Tuesday, but they also named their much-loved head coach Roy Johansen as the best on the ice. It was Johansen’s last match as head coach, and the got quite a send-off.
He claimed he was happy enough wih the 3-1 victory over Latvia at the World Championships in Moscow, which was also the last match in the teams’s Group A play. They’d been up against powerhouse teams like Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark and they did fairly well but not well enough to advance to the quarter-finals.
They lost 3-0 to Russia in their second-to-last match on Monday after being trounced 7-0 by the Czechs. After winning against Latvia, though, and seeing Germany beat Hungary, the Norwegians have qualified to play in the World Championships next year, too, at A-level.
“It was great we can have another year in the World Championships,” Johansen told state broadcaster NRK. “The players deserve it, and maybe we’ll get slightly easier rivals in the group next year.”
The players were happy too, but sad to see Johansen go. He’s taking on a new job as head coach for Oslo club Vålerenga, when current coach Espen “Shampo” Knutsen assumes a new role as the club’s sports chief. Johansen’s job is to revive Vålerenga’s fortunes at the club where he began his own ice hockey career.
He certainly revived the national team during his 15 years as its head coach. “He took Norway from being a ‘B-team’ to an ‘A-team,'” team member and New York Rangers star Mats Zuccarello told NRK. “He has meant an incredible amount for the team.”
Johansen, age 55, was taking in accolades from other players as well, who collectively voted him as their “most valuable player.” Knutsen of Vålerenga, who played for many years in the NHL himself, called him “the best national coach Norway has ever had,” and he received a national team jersey in a ceremony on the ice in Moscow when it was all over.
He’ll be replaced by Petter Thoresen, who has a hard act to follow, but Johansen was full of encouragement. “He (Thoresen) will take over a team with very loyal players with discipline both in their preparations and after the matches,” Johansen said. “He’ll have a fine gang to work worth, and I think they’ll rake up many good results in the future.”