STOCKHOLM -- Ralph Krueger had an important message for the collection of Swedish hockey coaches in a conference room at the Quality Hotel Globe on Saturday.
The Buffalo Sabres coach, speaking approximately three hours before his team played the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second game of the 2019 NHL Global Series at the Ericsson Globe, said it was important to create a culture of communication with players and that such a culture is at the foundation of who he is as a coach.
"You are trying to make the player into a better player and a better person every time you speak to him," said Krueger, in his first season as Sabres coach.
That was one of the lessons imparted to more than 100 coaches from the Swedish Ice Hockey Association who attended the two-day coaching clinic held here in connection with the Global Series.
Krueger spoke near the end of the day-long presentation Saturday and former NHL coaches Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators and Rob Zettler, most recently an assistant with the San Jose Sharks, each made two presentations.
MacLean gave a detailed talk on power-play philosophies and execution and face-offs. Zettler spoke of the penalty kill and the influence of analytics.
It was the culmination of a week-long engagement with a variety Swedish coaches, organized by the NHL, the NHL Coaches Association and Sweden's hockey federation to leave a legacy for the local hockey scene.
Zettler and MacLean also visited the city of Linkoping to do on-ice clinics with the various youth teams earlier in the week.
Krueger was the perfect keynote speaker for the group gathered Saturday; someone with an extensive history throughout Europe as a player and a coach, possessing a deep background in the philosophy of Swedish hockey who has been an NHL coach twice, first with the Edmonton Oilers and now with the Sabres, who hired him May 15, 2019.
He began his coaching career as a player-coach in the second division of Germany for two seasons.
"It was a good experience for me," said Krueger, noting that he could try out his coaching philosophies on the ice while also seeing them through the prism of a player. "From that day forward, from when I took over as the coach of [VEU] Feldkirch in Austria to today, I have had one principle; never stop learning, growing, seeking new information and redefining yourself."
That philosophy has led him on one of the most interesting journeys in all of sports. He coached Feldkirch for seven seasons (1991-98), finding success before he moved on to the national team of Switzerland, greatly elevating the profile of that program during his 13-year stay (1998-2010). He spent three seasons in Edmonton (2010-13), including the 2012-13 season as Oilers coach, and coached Team Europe to the final round of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He had been the chairman of Southampton Football Club the past five years.
Krueger gave the coaches practical pointers to make them better, stressing a culture of communication and the importance of the quality of practice over the quantity. He also pushed them to strive to be the best they can be in every aspect of their life, not just the coaching side.
And he left them with some motivation.
"Enjoy your journey," he said, "and keep putting your heart into everything you do."