After 18 Worlds, Polish forward retires at home
That is an incredible number, but since his debut with the men’s national team at the 1998 World Championship B-Pool in Slovenia the 36-year-old hasn’t missed a single World Championship event in 18 consecutive years for his country.
Only a few players have appeared in that many World Championship tournaments. Konstantin Mihaylov manned Bulgaria’s goal in 25 tournaments, Hungarian defenceman Viktor Szelig played 21, followed by Laszkiewicz, who has now joined Tommy Jakobsen (Norway) and Krisztian Palkovics (Hungary) with 18.
He is the last active player on the national team who was part of the team that earned promotion at the 2001 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Grenoble, where Poland finished the tournament ahead of France and Denmark, and part of the Polish national team that reached 14th place in the 2002 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Sweden before being relegated. (Another player from that time was Jacek Plachta, now the national team coach.)
Laszkiewicz also represented the U20 national team twice including the 1997 World Juniors in the top division in Geneva and Morges, Switzerland. He also played in two U18 European Championship B-Pool tournaments, and in 1996 was the scoring leader on home ice in Poland ahead of players like today’s top-division stalwarts Kim Staal (Denmark), Laurent Meunier (France) or Per-Age Skroder (Norway).
The Jastrzebie native spent most of his career in Poland apart from two seasons with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany), one with Vitkovice Ostrava (Czech Republic) and one in Milan in the Italian league. After returning to Poland in 2005 he spent eight years with Cracovia Krakow and has in the meantime returned to his hometown to play for JKH Jastrzebie where he will continue to play after his retirement from the national team at the end of the tournament.Continue reading
IIHF.com talked with the eight-time Polish champion ahead of the deciding games of the tournament about his career and the future of Polish ice hockey.
Let’s talk about the tournament. You’re in second place after three days with a 2-1 record. That’s more than many expected.
It’s a shame that we lost the first game against Italy by a single goal especially because we play at home. Had we won, it would have been so much easier. Although I’d say we were on par with the Italians but we were not effective enough. Then came the game against Japan, which was very important because it was a great opportunity to give ourselves a boost in the tournament. Now that we won the games against Japan and Ukraine we are simply waiting for the next game against Kazakhstan.
The tournament is very open at the moment. Which place do you think is possible for the Polish team?
At this point we are not thinking about the place and how we can end up. We have to focus on our next game because we take it step-by-step. Every win gives us the opportunity to go a step further.
You were playing for Cracovia for eight years. What does Krakow mean to you and to play the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in this big arena?
The city means quite a lot for me because I spent here eight great years and because my family is here. Krakow also means a lot because we are playing the tournament here. I’m really happy to be here for this opportunity also because this will be my last tournament because I decided to quit the national team. At this point I simply want to play as well as possible in this tournament.
You played in many World Championship events. What are the greatest memories for you?
The first tournament was in Slovenia in Ljubljana [in 1998]. It was the first great experience and the first opportunity to represent Poland at that level. But there are two other tournaments I remember very fondly. The first one was in France when we won our promotion to the top division and the second one followed this, when we played in the top division in Sweden against the best teams. It was a great experience both for me and for my teammates. It was a great time and we enjoyed it a lot.
If you look back a bit, what made it possible for Poland to earn promotion to the current level?
What happened a year ago was that our team was taken over by two great coaches, Igor Zakharkin and Vyacheslav Bykov. They changed the face of our national team. They taught us a lot including how important it is to pay attention to the smallest details. We really put a lot of effort into our game to try to win every single game. We have more self-esteem and believe in ourselves and focus on each game and take it step by step.
You once played with Jacek Plachta, who is now your coach. What can you tell about him?
Jacek’s task it to continue what the previous two coaches started and he does that very well. We did play together but at this point his role is to be the coach and my role is to be the player. But we understand each other very well.
You travelled to many cities and countries in hockey. What were the most interesting places?
It’s true, I’ve seen many countries and cities. They are all special in their own different ways. All this adds up to these great experiences I appreciate a lot. I will always remember them very fondly.
You played for clubs abroad like in Nuremberg, Ostrava and Milan. What was the strongest team you’ve played and how did you like these experiences abroad?
I’ve been very lucky to have played with very good teams in the leagues you mentioned. In Nuremberg we came second after losing to Mannheim in the final. I was one of the youngest players and learned professionalism. Then I moved to the Czech Republic, which is well known for its tactical and skilled play. I also liked it there and appreciate the time. Then came Milan where I had another great opportunity because there was the lockout in the NHL, which gave me the great opportunity to play with great NHL players [Nicklas Sundstrom, Craig Adams, Rob DiMaio]. Together with this team we won the championship.
What is your wish for Polish hockey, and what has to happen so that Poland will improve and one day become a top-16 nation again?
I’d like Polish hockey to grow and develop and be as strong and popular as it used to be some time ago. That would be great and fantastic. I do hope this is going to happen because now we have many great arenas, they are better and nicer. This is an opportunity that we in Poland need to use. Basically we all want that and that ice hockey will become one of the most popular and interesting sport disciplines in Poland. What we as the players want is to do our bit and to improve our results. If we play well, we will attract more sponsor and fans, which hopefully ultimately leads to development of hockey in Poland.
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