Chairman of Southampton F.C. between 2014 and 2019, Ralph Krueger was dismissed of his duties in April and decided to leave the overseeing side of things to get his hands back into the coaching mix… in ice hockey.
Taking over at the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL, the 60-year-old returned to a sport he left (at club level) in 2013 when he spent a season as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
He was also a right wing for various German sides during his career as a hockey player between 1978-1991, and is now back in his element.
Speaking to Swiss newspaper La Tribune de Genève, Krueger explained how he switched so quickly between football and his former sport.
He said: “I didn’t have a career plan. Everything was done quickly. I got a phone call, the Sabres’ director offered me the job and I had to make a decision in three days. Since I’m a guy who likes a challenge…”
No interview with Krueger could be done without talking about what happened at St Mary’s, however, and that’s exactly what La Tribune made him do.
He explained: “At Southampton, I had the feeling I’d completed my mission. In the offices, even if I learned a lot about managing a sporting business, I wasn’t enjoying myself as much. I liked the experience, but I remain a man who likes to be on the pitch. The smell of the dressing room, the adrenaline of the game, I missed all those things”.
Krueger did admit he was a bit out of touch with ice hockey after so many years thinking about football and with a time difference making it difficult for him to stay on tops of things in America, but he says those fears and doubts evaporated after two training sessions with his new team, immediately feeling back at home on the third day.
As for the differences between football and the NHL: “There aren’t any. At Southampton and Buffalo, I’m confronted with the same profile of players who are perfectionists and don’t leave anything to chance”.
As things stand, the Sabres currently sit fourth in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, just outside of a Wild Card spot, with 12 wins, 10 losses and five overtime losses in 27 games so far.