SDHL: INTERVIEW- Jared Cipparone (AIK) - there's no untouchables
SDHL: INTERVIEW- Jared Cipparone (AIK) - there's no untouchables

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SDHL: INTERVIEW- Jared Cipparone (AIK) - there's no untouchables

Love played a significant role in AIK current trainer, Jared Cipparone’s move from native Canada to Sweden – perhaps not surprising considering he was born on Valentine’s Day.

The early days: from player in Canada to manager in Sweden

Whilst at Carleton University he played in USports having already played in the Ontario Hockey League as a junior. There he met Alexandra Palm and after graduation they decided to move to her home town, Stockholm in Sweden and both pursue careers as pro hockey players.

Alexandra Cipparone, as she is now called since they got married in the summer of 2016, played with Segeltorp IF, the dominant team in the early days of the SDHL, winning the league with the team in 2010/1. She even captained the team before moving on to Djurgården IF.

Meanwhile, Jared worked his way up from Division 2 to Division 1 playing for different Stockholm clubs. But when his team had financial problems, he was not sure he wanted to go back to the lower division.

At the same time, he happened to be a one of Alexandra’s practices when they needed an Assistant Coach. Without thinking much about it he signed up only to find out later that the Head Coach had quit, “I kinda fell it… and I’m still there,” he laughs.

The move to Djurgården

Segeltorp IF where relegated in 2012/3 and the club was taken over to become Djurgården IF’s first ever women’s team. Both Alexandra and Jared decided to take up the new opportunity at Djurgården, who started in the Division 1 but with clear ambitions to go up to the SDHL.

Success was just around the corner for the Stockholm team and the duo played their part – Jared as Head Coach and Alexandra as captain in her final two years as a player.

“The women’s game has changed drastically since I got involved,” he reflects,” I mean, at every level – the shooting, the skill level, everything. Even if you compare the SDHL to last season, there’s no easy games anymore, anyone can win,” he says in an upbeat tone.

That has not always been the case and that moves us on to talking about one of the greatest upsets of SDHL history.

In 2016/7 Djurgården IF, with Jared at the helm, won the championship in an era that has been otherwise dominated by Luleå/ MSSK and Linköping HC.

“In hockey, you also need a bit of luck, and HV71 took out Luleå in the semis. It was a real team effort, something that was building all year. I think we learn a lot from losing to Linköping the year before. But we beat them in the semi after three matches and that gave us great confidence in the final, we knew we could go all the way and win.”

Understandably, it was one of the highlights of Jared’s managerial career which he was also able to share with Alexandra who captained the championship winning team.

Olympic highs and lows

He may have fallen into club management by accident, but becoming assistant manager for the Swedish Olympic team was also a major career highlight that found him rather than that he desperately reached out for it.

Leif Boork just phoned me up one day and said would I like to come to an international tournament. I had been at Djurgården three years and was not intending to carry on. Before too long I was behind the bench at the Olympics!” he says, still as though he can’t believe his luck.

But the results from the Pyeongchang Olympics were a great disappointment as the national team came seventh out of eight nations in the tournament. “It was really tough on the girls,” he says, “The mental side of the game was tough – there’s a lot of pressure. In the end, success was not really on their side”, he reflects with a manager’s skillful ability to not overplay the situation.

Back to club hockey at AIK

We turn finally to Jared’s current role, manager for the second year in AIK. Alexandra is no longer a player or manager alongside him as in the national team and the couple have a one year old daughter, Holly.

But whilst home life is very different, on the ice Jared is still the same, he’s again managing his team to greater success.

The club currently sit in 5th place at the top of group of four teams that make up a second echelon in the table. This is the club's best finish since 2016/7 and is a great improvement on last year’s 8th place.

And that without a huge amount of changes from last year or imports. “I think we’ve got a stable base of long-term players”, he says about the squad, “This year we’re building on what we did last year. The team has got used to me and my style of play and we brought a few players in key positions, to fill the gaps”.

There’s no doubt bringing in three internationals in the shape of the experienced Fanny Rask, one of Sweden’s top forwards from HV71, scoping Finland’s second netminder, Meeri Räisänen from Connecticut Whale as well Japanese international defender, Sena Suzuki from Toronto Furies were all smart signings.

That said, “winning is something you have to learn,” he says philosophically. “Last year we had a lot of close matches that we lost. This year we’ve got a team of winners - and that’s not just down to the new players, but to everyone stepping up. We’re staying in games, even when we’re down, and not getting frustrated.”

And Jared reveals a little bit more about his current coaching philosophy at AIK, “One thing that’s changed this year is that we’re minimising the information we give to the players, trying to give them more freedom,” he explains. “It’s not so much about “I’m in the wrong position”, but about adaptability, “how do I get into the right position?”.

The results seem to show the new approach is working.

Whilst they have brought in imports, they are still the club with the most Swedish players in the league. “No, we haven’t had a “policy” to just have Swedish players. But obviously we try to choose Swedish girls first and our long-term goal is to improve Swedish hockey. But having imports in the SDHL also improves the quality of play.”

We finish by looking ahead to the playoffs, where a medal place will certainly involve beating the top teams like HV71.

But Jared is not daunted by the task, “Anyone can beat anyone in this year’s SDHL, there’s no untouchables. So, we’re going to concentrate on our game, not change everything for the playoffs. I say you’ve got to find your game before the playoffs. This is a work hard team, they forecheck well, are good in the transition and are improving in defense. Each line has its own character”.

It’s clear that Jared believes in his team and with both national success and Olympic experience behind him he’s got every reason to be confident in his methods. He will soon be 34 years and can be sure he will do all he can to steer this talented and improving team towards his second, and the club’s third, SDHL championship.

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