Prague has already become his second home. UWE KRUPP has started his second year as Sparta’s coach and he cannot wait for the season to begin. “The management has brought some very good players and now it’s our turn to show that they brought the right ones for the team,” says Krupp before Sparta’s first preparatory match.
How was your summer break? How
did you spend it?
After the season we watched the end of the payoffs, then I went to the World Championship in Bratislava and after that, I went home to my place in Florida. In July I was back in the locker room and we started our summer training. I missed it!
Sparta has signed a few very good players during the offseason. Who has impressed you the most so far?
It was important after last season that we made some changes and that we brought new talent. The new players all came in good shape. They all have different qualities – Adam Polášek has shown stability as a defensive defenseman, we can expect some offense from him. Michal Řepík is experienced and will give us speed and character in the line-up, Kvapil is a talented guy that can make plays and will help us become more dangerous offensively. Růžička has shown to be a great two-way player, he’s had a few injuries so we need to be patient with him, but he will be ready. Sukeľ, we all have seen it at the World Championship, he’s a talented player. He’s a young, fast forward who can score goals.
A few players also left the team. What lead to the decision to part ways with them?
Every year, decisions have to be made. The needs of the team are being discussed and analysed. It is normal that decisions are made, it’s not so much about what led to the decisions to let each of them go, it’s more about what Sparta needed, which was new blood and new impulses.
Sparta will have a tough start to the season, facing off against Plzeň, Liberec, a finalist, and then the defending champion Třinec. How do you feel about that?
Good. I like when we play good teams and those have been the best teams in the league last year, it’s fun to play them. It’s not like we have any influence on who we’ll play anyway (laughs).
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
We are in the first process of conditioning, taking that off-ice training and turning it into on-ice conditioning and so far, that has gone well. We haven’t played any games though, so we’ll have to establish our identity, who we are as a team and once we establish that, we can talk about what our goals for the season are.
The team started practising on the ice quite early in the offseason. Was that an intention? Did you want the players to practice on the ice early? Why?
I think we haven’t started that early. From what I know, the only teams that started later are the ones who went far in the playoffs. Last year we started around the same time, it’s an eight-week process, it seems long sometimes. I think 6 weeks is ideal, but nobody was happy with the way we finished last season, so we will use this time to establish ourselves and to get properly ready for the next season.
On-ice sessions started with intensive training and matches during the afternoon. Is that a new thing or did you practice this way last season as well?
We did that last year as well. I have always done it during my time as a coach. The main reason why we do it is conditioning. Nothing will prepare the players better than being in game situations and I’ve had good experience with it. Last season, coming out of training, we were in good condition, so that’s why I do it.
The first pre-season match will probably be the most exciting one, you will be playing against Slavia, Sparta’s biggest rival. What will the line-up look like?
We will decide tomorrow morning but I can guarantee that we will go with a good team.
What about the injured players? Are there players that might not start the season?
Yes. Buchtele will not start, Pavelka is questionable right now, some young players have had knee surgery, but most of them should be ready to go.
It has already been mentioned that negotiations with Daniel Přibyl are underway. What is the plan with him?
The situation is still the same. He needs to get healthy before he thinks about playing hockey. Everybody has to understand that 3 years of not playing hockey is a long time, but everything looks a lot better, certainly better than it did last year at this time. He should start training on the ice soon.
The competition within the team has risen with the arrival of the newest acquisitions. Everyone has to fight for a spot on the roster – have you ever experienced this as a player? Did you like the pressure or was it uncomfortable for you?
I played in the NHL for 17 years, the whole mentality of North American hockey is competition for your spot. Last year at one point we ended up with a lot of injuries, which hurt our performance, so I think that if we have a little more depth this season, it’s a good thing.
As well as on the roster, there have been major changes made in Sparta’s management. How has the cooperation with Barbora Snopková-Haberová been for you so far?
Great! Everybody’s looking forward to the season, we communicate a lot. The management is willing to invest in Sparta’s needs, they have brought some very good players and now it’s our turn to show that they brought the right ones for the team.
How does your everyday communication with Jaroslav Hlinka and Petr Ton, Sparta’s new sports manager and director, look like? What do you discuss with them, do you talk to both of them equally or discuss different things with each of them?
We pretty much discuss all the important aspects together. Petr is not as often in the locker room as Jaroslav, who comes every morning, but only for a short time to discuss if there’s anything that needs to be taken care of. They’re around, but they give us space.
One of the most exciting matches of this season will be the Open-Air match in Dresden. Are you looking forward to it? You will be playing in front of 30 000 fans and in your home country…
All those games are exciting. It’s a long season so it’s nice to have something like that to look forward to that kind of breaks up the routine of the extraliga. I’m looking forward to it, I’ve had one experience in Germany at the World Championship, we played in front of 80 000 people, that was a great event. This one will be a fun one.
This will be your second year in Prague. Has your family already adjusted to living here? Do you feel at home here?
Yes, definitely, the kids are going to school here, they love it. My wife enjoys Prague, it’s a great place to live.
Are your children spartan fans yet?
For sure! Sparta soccer fans, Sparta hockey fans – they love going to the games and cheer the team on, they enjoy it!