The Australian Mighty Roos senior men’s ice hockey team has a new coach with Brad Vigon taking on the role with a new-look coaching team.
Vigon had been the Melbourne Mustangs’ coach in the Australian Ice Hockey League up until early November when he stepped down after three seasons in the role, including winning the 2014 AIHL Championship.
Former CBR Brave coach Matti Luoma will be Vigon’s assistant as the team aims to get back into Division 2 Group A after being relegated from the group earlier this season.
After turning the Mustangs from a last-placed team to the AIHL champions in only two years and previous experience as assistant coach in the Mighty Roos’ 2013 World Championship campaign, Vigon had the confidence to put his name up for the top job.
“I had a chance to be an assistant coach with the national team a few years back with Vlad Rubes who was the head coach at the time,” Vigon said. “I learned a lot from him about how to prepare and the processes you need to go through. It was a fantastic experience and it was then that I knew I would like to have a chance to lead the team.”
Vigon has had a strong career in Australia, moving to the country at 35 years of age and joining the Melbourne Ice as a player then captain and assistant coach.
In his time in the AIHL, he tallied 100 points (43 goals, 57 assists) in 83 games between 2004-2010.
Prior to joining the Ice, Vigon had retired at the age of 24 after a stint as a professional hockey player in Europe and his native USA.
Vigon also represented Australia at the 2008 World Championships, pulling on the Mighty Roos jersey for the first time as a 39-year old, tallying five appearances with a goal and an assist in the campaign that saw Australia reach Division 1 for the first time.
“Anytime you have the chance to represent your country it is a huge honour,” Vigon said. “It had long been a dream of mine to play in a World Championship, but I had long since forgotten about it until I moved to Australia. I was completely taken by surprise that they asked me to play, as I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken at the time. But it all worked out and we won a gold medal to boot.”
“I never really thought that I would get the head coaching role. There are a lot of great coaches here and I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position.”
With plenty of achievements since arriving in Australia, Vigon said he had many highlights.
“My time in Australia has been full of memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Vigon said. “My first year in Melbourne, I was a player/coach for the Sharks in the Victorian League. At that time, all players who played in the AIHL also had to play in the local league so the level was very competitive. The team had finished dead last the season before and we won the championship.”
“Also playing for the Melbourne Ice in the formative years out of Oakleigh and helping to turn them into a contender was a great experience, as well as being an assistant coach with them during their first two championships. And I have to mention the Gold Medal with the Australia team and gaining promotion to Division One for the first time in the country’s history.”
As national team coach, Vigon hopes to lead the team to back to Division 2 Group A but also has a strong focus on developing the younger players on the team into strong international performers to help set the team up for the future.
“On paper at this point I like what I am seeing,” Vigon said. “We have a great mixture of youth and experience and a group of guys that I have no doubt will buy into what Matti Louma and I will lay out for them. They are hungry, and extremely motivated to get us back where we believe we belong.”
“The tough thing for Australia every year is the opposite season. Most teams, with the exception of New Zealand are coming right out of a season and are in top game shape, whereas most of our players haven’t played a real game in nearly six months, so guys need to get up to speed very quickly. Also the altitude in Mexico City will be a challenge for us, but we are taking every step necessary in order to minimise the impact.”
The Mighty Roos will play in the 2016 Division 2 Group B World Championships in Mexico City, Mexico on April 9-15. They will take on Bulgaria, Israel, North Korea, New Zealand and hosts Mexico.