ROUEN – One of the most famous Norwegian players in history, Petter Thoresen wants to leave a legacy beyond his own career on the ice. He’s a successful coach with the Stavanger Oilers while his sons are among the top players in the country.
The 52-year-old participated in five Olympic ice hockey tournaments from 1980 to 1994, something only several players have achieved. He played 96 games for the Norwegian men’s national team, fifth most in Norwegian history.
As a player he won four championships with Vålerenga Oslo but has been even more successful in his second career. As a coach with the Storhamar Dragons, Vålerenga Oslo and the Stavanger Oilers, he has won a combined eight championships.
Since joining the Stavanger Oilers in 2009, he has won three gold medals and one silver in four years with the team.
In November he led the Oilers the first Continental Cup Super Final berth for a Norwegian club – so far the biggest success for Norway in European club hockey.
Thoresen also has two hockey-playing sons. Former NHLer Patrick Thoresen plays for SKA St. Petersburg and Sochi 2014 will be his third Olympics, while Steffen Thoresen is among the top home-grown players in the domestic league with Lørenskog.
Although hockey is not among the top sports in Norway as in neighbouring Sweden or Finland, it has its following in this traditional winter sport country, almost 7,000 registered ice hockey players and its own hockey evergreen, “Heia Norge å, å”, composed for the 1989 IIHF World Championship B-Pool in Oslo and Lillehammer.
The national team didn’t have to play at this level since joining the top division for the 2006 Worlds and reached the quarter-finals three times, in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
IIHF.com talked with Petter Thoresen after the team’s strong showing on Day 1 of the Continental Cup Super Final.
What are your views of the first game at the Continental Cup Super Final, a 3-2 loss in a shootout to Donbass Donetsk?
We played against a strong team. We were a big underdog. They are one of the best teams in the KHL. We tried to play a good defence and good system. I think we did very well in the first period but they had lots of chances in the second period when we were watching the puck too often. We had big problems but our goalie was very strong. In the third period we did very well, didn’t only defend but also created chances but they also have a good goalie. We fought back and I’m really proud of my guys that they played such a good game against this team.
What do you expect from the other games?
The next games will be hard games too but we can beat both of these teams. Of course we talked all week long about the chance to win the tournament but the key game was against Donbass. I don’t think they will give away more points. We have to play good, strong hockey again to win the other games.
Until some years ago the Stavanger Oilers were not that noticeable at the international level. What happened in Stavanger that you could build a team that won championships?
Of course the Oilers had strong players but they didn’t play as a team four, five years ago. I came to the Oilers and had won a lot of championships with teams in Norway. My philosophy is to play as a team, play for the team, play together and work for the team and not for yourself and that’s the way we’ve worked for the last four-and-a-half years and we won three championships.
The club has built a new arena and is a really strong and professional organization in Norway. It’s the newest and best arena. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult when we have to play road games in smaller rinks but we’re used to it. It’s good for the players in Stavanger to have such an organization so they can fully focus on hockey.
Next year the Champions Hockey League will start and there are some wild cards left for teams from other leagues. Do you hope to play in this league?
We hope we can do that. I’m not sure whether it will happen but it’s the goal for the Oilers organization to play in this league because we learned to play against other teams and that’s good for us and Norwegian hockey. I guess they will follow the results here and when we can compete against one of the best teams from the Russian league we can compete against other teams too.
Soon there’s the Olympics with one of your players, Henrik Solberg, and your son Patrick on the Norwegian team. How will you follow Sochi 2014?
I will go to Sochi and watch the first three games of Norway. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
When you watch the Olympics, do you often remember your own time as a player at the Games?
Yes, definitely. I have very good experiences from the Olympics. It’s a good event to play and watch and to experience the Olympic village with the other athletes. It’s good for Norwegian hockey to compete with the best players in the world.
What are the best memories from your four Olympics?
Of course in Calgary 1988 there were many people watching. We played a couple of really good games down there but when I played Norway didn’t win that many games at the Olympics but we always did the best because we wanted to be proud to represent Norway. I don’t know how many wins I had there. We were not as strong as we wanted to be but it was good to be there.
Norway has been improving in the recent years.
Yes, very much. More players went out to play in bigger leagues. There are lots of players in Russia, Sweden and Germany. That’s good for the national team that they play at a higher level. Also the GET-ligaen at home has become better. We improve slowly but we improve. The national team has played very well in the last few years.
What needs to happen that Norway can become a steady top-8 nation?
I think it’s important that our domestic league becomes more professional. There are still people who work too much on a regular job and then play hockey beside. We need to become a little bit more professional in the clubs. And we need to develop young players who can play in big leagues.