16 July 2022
Former Team Italy chief set for first KHL season
Kunlun Red Star can confirm the appointment of Greg Ireland as head coach for the upcoming KHL season. Ireland, 56, joins the Dragons after three seasons coaching HC Bolzano, an Italian team playing in Austria’s cross-border league. He has also led Team Italy at the last two World Championships and the Olympic qualification campaign in the fall of 2021.
Ireland is a new face behind the bench, but at the same time his appointment represents some continuity. His connections in Italian hockey make him familiar with the work of Ivano Zanatta and Clayton Beddoes, our coaching tandem from last season. Moreover, in a long career coaching at all levels on both sides of the Atlantic, Greg has learned from some of the best in the business. Back in 2008, when he led San Antonio Rampage to something of a breakout season in the AHL, he talked about his close relationship with a certain Mike Babcock. That connection dated back to Ireland’s time with Grand Rapids and Greg admitted that he learned a lot from his contact with the much-titled Stanley Cup, Olympic and World Championship winner.
Unlike Babcock, though, Ireland has spent much of his career in charge of underdog teams – an experience that will surely help him with KRS. His teams are noted for their hard work and zero quit, with an emphasis on good puck retention when in possession and a determination to hunt down the opposition on the other side of the puck.
During his time at the Rampage, Ireland outlined his coaching philosophy. “I love the cerebral side of X’s & O’s, as well as the teaching and [player] development,” he said. “My beliefs are firm. This is a game of passion and emotion that is meant to be played at a high pace. If players are doing their job, I am down there giving those high fives and pats on the back. If they are not, I am going to let them know what is expected of them.”
It’s an approach that has garnered results. In San Antonio, he guided the Rampage to its first ever playoff victory in the AHL in that 2007/08 campaign. Later, he worked in Switzerland with Lugano – where his assistant for a time was Patrick Fischer, currently head coach of the fast-improving Swiss National Team – and had a season with Adler Mannheim in the DEL before replacing our old friend Clayton Beddoes behind the bench in Bolzano at the start of 2020.
In international play, the pandemic hampered Ireland’s opportunities to make an impression with Team Italy: the 2020 World Championship was cancelled and in 2021 he was unable to join his team in Riga due to Covid. Last May he was behind the bench as the hard-working Italians produced some battling, competitive performances but ultimately lost out to Kazakhstan in a relegation decider.
Greg will get his first chance to meet up with this season’s roster on Sunday when the Dragons gather for pre-season medical checks ahead of the first camp of the summer in Mytichshi.