INTERVIEW WITH CJHL DIRECTOR

29.05.2020
Uverejnil: cjhl
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Slovakian newspaper "MY NOVINY VÝCHOD" published last week interview with Peter Kločanka, CJHL director. We bring you translation of its full version.

In an interview for our weekly, you evaluated last season as a successful one. What’s your opinion after the current one?

There are things we’re happy with, but also moments with which 100% satisfaction cannot be expressed. However, we can say with certainty that it was a record-breaking season. We started with 25 teams from 9 countries this season. All 12 tournaments were broadcast live via YouTube. We saw a great many quality matches and it can be said that everything ran without any major organizational issues. The biggest negative was perhaps the third round in the U14 category. Some teams came with a reduced roster due to illness, and Automobilist Kyiv did not participate at all, because it didn’t have enough players available. But overall we can evaluate the season positively, of course, until the end, but this is something we have no influence over.

You had to shut down the fourth year of CJHL prematurely due to a pandemic. Was there another solution in play, let’s say, play the games meaningful for places in the standings before the start of the new season?

When it all started, we closely monitored the situation in Slovakia and abroad. We communicated with the competent authorities here in Slovakia and we were in regular contact with our clubs from other countries. Then it broke out all over Europe. Sports venues and borders were closed. Nobody knew when it would all end and how things would develop, so we decided to cut the season short without awarding titles. We didn’t see completing this season before the start of the new season as realistic, although we did consider such a possibility. We don’t know if there will be time for that, if all the clubs could take part, with what rosters ... there were even more such questions.

Are you sorry for the premature end of the season all the more because it came just before its apex?

Of course. We and all the clubs were preparing for the final round. It was supposed to be the apex of the season, especially for teams fighting for the title. Once again, there were games and skills competitions on the ALL STARS program. We also had some interesting changes planned that would have increased their attractiveness for both the players and spectators. We were also planning to liven things up for our fans. And we wanted to try something looking towards the next season... there really were a lot of plans. We were looking forward to the end of the season, but unfortunately what happened happened. Now we can only hope that everything will return to normal soon.

Despite the negative in the form of early end to the season, can any positives be found in this? What did this year give you and your organization?

Certainly yes. New clubs were added to the competition, and we got to know new people. We tried out the functioning of a “mixed” team, which started in the competition under the name “CJHL Development Team”, in which boys from Poland and Ukraine played together. We organized a competition for the “CJHL Spectator Record”. And we also announced the “Hockey Mom’s Day”, which met with a positive response and I believe will become a tradition.

This was our fourth season. In that time, we’ve met many clubs as well as the people that manage them. Communication with them, as well as our internal assessment of their hockey and organizational “quality” will help us decide in which direction we want to move the league in the coming seasons.

As a positive, we could mention cereer development of some former CJHL players. Ukrainian Olexandr Plokhotnik was the most productive player of U18 Slovak Extraleague in the last season. Before he also played for Novojavorivsk in your League. What did he excel at, what are his advantages?

As I remember him, he was very good in "reading" of the game. He had great passes. He wasn´t very tall that time, but he was good skater with excellent stickahndling. In two seasons he was the leader of goal assists statistics.

Before the season, there was a reorganization in terms of age categories. From the long-term viewpoint, you only organized tournaments for players under 14 and 16, while in the past season there were tournaments for players under 13, 15 and 19. How do you evaluate this organizational change?

The categories mainly reflect the interest of the clubs. But in principle it applies that as the age of the players grows, so does the category designation. What was U13 last year was now U14 in the current season. Likewise, U15 changed to U16. We were also interested in a U20 category, but not enough teams could be found. Out of those who played in it last season (still as U19), Sanok and Kiev wanted to continue. Kharkov also tried to put together the team. Michalovce wanted to focus on the domestic competition, where they wanted to fight for promotion to the highest junior competition. The Romanian team Galati in effect disappeared. The players from the three-time CJHL champion from Novojavorivsko were scattered all over the world (Canada, USA, Slovakia ...) and to senior teams in Ukraine. So organizational changes occur for a variety of reasons, but for us, the interest of clubs, to which we also adapt our decisions, is always decisive.

What categories are you thinking about for next season?

We already have a certain idea, but it is still premature to talk about it. We are currently gathering information from clubs on whether they want to continue next season and what categories they are interested in. But not everyone is able right now to express themselves given the current situation. It’s difficult to guess how this pandemic will affect the functioning of clubs, as well as the players’ families. Youth hockey is financed mainly by the parents. So we’ll see what the coming weeks bring.

Several new clubs appeared in the league during the shortened season, as well as representatives from new countries. How do you evaluate their contribution?

I would divide them by category. The new teams definitely brought quality to the U16 category. Kaunas, Sf. Gheorghe and Minsk advanced to the final (7 best teams after the regular season). Miskolc was in the running for the final until the last match. Sofia lagged behind in performance, but it also had skilled players on its roster, who improved thanks to the tough games in the CJHL. In addition to the sports side, I would like to praise all the new teams for their approach to the organizational duties associated with performing in the CJHL.

Five newcomers were also added to the U14 category, but here it was a little worse in terms of performance and organization. The exception was the Polish team JKH GKS Jastrzębie, which easily won its group without even losing a point. And it didn’t disappoint organizationally when it hosted the third round. The already mentioned CJHL Development Team was equally a benefit. Players from Poland and Ukraine, whose clubs did not start in the CJHL U14, got a chance to play on this team. The skimpy roster had a negative effect on the results of the Ukrainian team from Odessa. I’m convinced that if they had 2-3 more players in each round, their results would have been much better. Automobilist Kiev and Olimpia Ploiesti had the same problems.

Recent reports indicate that the fourth phase of freeing up the enhanced quarantine measures should take place after 20 May. In this phase there are also plans to again organize sporting events. The CJHL will start at the end of August, which is about three months away. Are you preparing to start playing on this date or is there a risk of postponement?

I believe that it will be possible to start in the traditional August term. But there are also variants in play with a later start. We’ll have to see how the situation develops in our country and in other countries.

Compared to leagues where only clubs from one country take part, you will have a harder time with this. The CJHL has a number of clubs from other countries, several of which are based outside the EU. Can the ongoing tightening of border measures limit the number of participants in the next season?

You're right, it is more complicated. Of course, we’re aware that clubs from some countries may have trouble traveling abroad in the coming months. But we can’t do anything about this, so we have to accept it. If this happens, our task will be to come up with a format for the league that will be interesting to those who will be able to play in it.

Last season, nine clubs from Ukraine and Poland took part in two competitions. The situation in these countries is slightly higher in terms of the number of Covid - 19 patients than in our country. In the near future, there is talk of opening borders with the Czech Republic and Austria, and negotiations are to take place with Hungary. Regarding the situation with opening the borders with Poland and Ukraine there is more or less silence. Can you imagine the next year of CJHL without clubs from these countries?

That’s a tough question. The league would definitely suffer if these teams were not part of it next season. On the other hand, it is clear to us that after a one-year break, it would be difficult to restart it, so we will do everything to ensure that the fifth year takes place. In Poland, they’re gradually relaxing measures, similarly as here. From 4 May outdoor sports facilities there can be used in small groups, with a maximum of 6 people. Matches of the highest football league there are scheduled for the end of May. In the next phase, they also plan to open the halls and gyms. According to information from our partners, they plan to start a joint training on 18 May.

Given all this, while also taking into account the fact that Poland is a member of the EU and we also have a common border, we think that this border will be open for the beginning of the hockey season.

Ukrainian clubs are also a strong partner of CJHL. Some of the tournaments have even taken place in the country of our eastern neighbors. For Ukrainians, also because they are not in the EU or Schengen, it will likely be a little more difficult to get across the border any time soon, which would then be the other way around when EU citizens enter Ukraine. Do you have any information from your partners about the fact that, let's say in sporting activities, border crossings could be simplified in the future? Or, if this did not happen, would it then jeopardize a number of transnational competitions next season. Is there any key to this, or do we simply have to wait?

We’ve not yet seen any information about plans for the Slovakia-Ukrainian border. The situation there is right now like in our country: sports venues are closed; games are not being played. From the point of view of further development, it’s worse that the number of infected people is still rising there and all measures were taken later there than in our country. So there is the big assumption that in Ukraine they will be fighting the coronavirus longer.

It is no secret that the crisis will affect other segments. Several companies or organizations are moving into a so-called budget mode, or even laying off their employees. What promises do you have from the sponsors taking part in running the CJHL? Have they expressed support for you for the coming period, too, or are you in the phase of seeking new sponsors?

The league doesn’t have any partners that would support it financially, so from this point of view we don’t feel any danger. We’re rather more concerned that this will negatively affect the clubs. The league is financed from club membership fees, from which trophies, web hosting, marketing materials and so on are paid. All the members of the league’s management are devoted to it without a claim on remuneration. Of course, we are trying to find sponsors, and what’s clear is that it will be even harder now. Therefore, our thanks go to all those who have supported us with their products or services.

source: MY NOVINY VÝCHOD, Jakub BOBOVIČ

 

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