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New Coach Jarrod Skalde Has Big Plans for Japan Ice Hockey National Team

Former NHL player Jarrod Skalde will guide the Japan men's squad at the upcoming world championships while aiming to qualify for the Olympics.



Jarrod Skalde
Jarrod Skalde (left), the Japan men's ice hockey team's new head coach, shakes hands with Japan Ice Hockey Federation executive and men's team general manager Takahito Suzuki on April 9, 2024. (KYODO)

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The Japan Ice Hockey Federation has appointed former National Hockey League player Jarrod Skalde as the new coach of the men's national team.

Skalde, a 53-year-old native of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, replaces fellow Canadian Perry Pearn, who was not rehired after his contract expired on March 31.

The senior national team was 12-3-1 under the 72-year-old Pearn but officials at the JIHF decided to go in a different direction.

Skalde's first order of business will be getting the men's national team ready for the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I, Group A, which will be held from April 28 to May 4 in Bolzano, Italy.

Japan will face Hungary, Italy, South Korea and Romania. The top two teams will be promoted to the Top Division for the 2025 world championships.

Beyond that, the big goal is to qualify for the 2026 Olympics. The last time Japan's men's hockey team reached the Olympics was in 1998 in Nagano. That time it qualified as host nation.


At the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy, the hockey tournament will feature 12 teams. Three slots are still open through qualifying tournaments.

"There are obviously big goals ahead with the world championships and the Olympic qualifiers," Skalde said at a press conference in Tokyo on April 10 where he was introduced as the new coach.

"We are going up to Tomakomai in Hokkaido for a training camp and our focus will be getting the players prepared for that first game (on April 28) against Hungary."  

Japan Impressed Skalde During His First Visit in 1998

Skalde first came to Japan as a member of the San Jose Sharks when they opened the 1998 NHL season in Tokyo against the Calgary Flames.

After that visit, Skalde said he was so impressed with the country that he was determined to get back as a player, which he did. But little did he know that he would end up as coach of the national team.

Skalde had a long career as a forward in the National Hockey League. He began his NHL playing days in the 1990-91 campaign with the New Jersey Devils and finished in the 2001-02 season with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Skalde played in Japan for the Oji Eagles in the Asia League Ice Hockey in 2006-07. In 34 games, he had 15 goals and 47 points and two goals in four playoff games.


During his playing career, Skalde also had stints in Switzerland and Slovakia.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.