Oddly enough, since our last hard core conversation regarding Euro-coaches to the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks hired a European general manager, Patrik Allvin. His fellow Swede Rikard Grönborg would be the top Euro-coach-to-NHL candidate having played college hockey in the US and possessing a sturdy international resumé, but there didn’t appear to be much appetite from the Canucks or elsewhere.
Agent Neil Glasberg represents Grönborg and quite a few current NHL coaches and general managers of all origins. Although it was very interesting and enlightening, not much has changed since we recorded an interview (below) about Euro-coaches and related matters for our old Hockey Wanderlüst international newsletter in early 2022.
The twice-a-week newsletter and the interview were both well received and acclaimed as one might expect with about 30-percent of the NHL being made up of European players.
Obviously that significant number is not reflected within the management and coaching ranks.
Grönborg’s name pops up periodically and he does have an ‘out’ should he receive an offer to be an NHL assistant or head coach. He’s set to take over the Tampere club in Finland’s top SM Liiga. The 54-year-old former Swedish National Team coach most recently coached the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League. He left the post in December.
The NHL’s ‘old boys network’ with its two-degrees of separation tends to organically carry forth its own relationships and ignore potentially positive outside influences. Two decades ago, two teams gave it a whirl, with the Chicago Blackhawks hiring Finland’s Alpo Suhonen and the Penguins bringing in Ivan Hlinka from the Czech Republic in 2000.
Suhonen finished twelve games below .500 and was fired after one season. Hlinka led the Penguins to the Conference Finals in 2001 and was fired four losses into the next season. He was killed in a car accident in his native Czechia three years later.
Some fans associate former Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger with European roots but they shouldn’t. He had plenty of experience playing and coaching in Europe, including as bench boss of the Swiss National Team, but Krueger was born in Winnipeg and grew up playing hockey out west.
Canucks Interest Limited
Grönborg’s background would suggest he might be next. The Canucks did’t have much interest, which makes sense for multiple reasons including the fact that the current Swedish GM hiring a Swedish head coach for the Canucks might have led to a fan revolt. The time around Bruce Boudreau’s dismissal was not a happy time in BC and it didn’t appear to be the right moment for experimentation.