GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Marco Sturm wants to coach in the NHL.
He's having quite the audition coaching Germany at the Olympics.
Sturm has the underdog Germans in the semifinals, where he faces heavily favored Canada on Friday. At just 39, Sturm is the biggest reason Germany has exceeded expectations at the Olympics. He said he is constantly improving along with his team.
"As a coach — and especially me, because I'm very young and (in) only my third year coaching — I learned so much," Sturm said Thursday. "It only helps in tournaments and it always helps playing against top teams also. ... You learn sometimes from your mistakes and on the other side what do you do good and what you think helps the team to be successful."
After 15 NHL seasons as a player on six different teams, Sturm is now enjoying some success in coaching. He's six years removed from his last NHL game but already looks like he has a bright future behind the bench.
"He's still really, really young," veteran Germany defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. "He's only going to grow from all these experiences. I think one day, why not? Why should he not be a coach on the highest level?"
Sturm makes no secret of his interest in getting back to North America to coach. He's currently living in Germany and coaching the national team full-time but could parlay his current work into a gig as an assistant in the NHL or maybe even a head job in the American Hockey League.
The Olympics — where he will see former teammate Wojtek Wolski on the ice for Canada — are evidence of what he can do. Canada's players, some of whom played against Sturm, won't understate his impact.
"He's done a tremendous job with that program," Canada captain Chris Kelly said. "I think results speak and for them to be where they're at and deserve to be where they're at speaks volumes to him as a coach."
Sturm has volumes of NHL connections after playing for the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers from 1997-2012. If he's being scouted like some players at the Olympics, his opportunity could come as soon as next season, and he said he is ready for it.
"I want to learn each year," Sturm said. "It's a great opportunity for me with the German hockey, but when this is done, I think I'm trying and I'm looking forward to maybe a next challenge and that will be the States and I think that's my goal."
First, though, Sturm is tasked with continuing to play at a tournament where few expected Germany to advance this far. Germany didn't qualify for the Olympics in Sochi, and even Sturm didn't expect this.
"I think we are hungry for more, and why not?" Sturm said.
Sturm feels Germany benefited from playing Finland and Sweden early in the tournament. It also benefited from his coaching long before the Olympics started.
"He installed a system that really fits the players well we have," Ehrhoff said. "He is one of the greatest figures of German hockey, so when he first came in, the respect level he has within the group, it's huge."
Respect is something Sturm would like to improve for hockey in Germany, where it's not even close to soccer in terms of interest. Germany's success under Sturm and reaching the semifinals put it on the front pages back home, something he's proud of.
"It's already huge because there's soccer and there's nothing and then there's other sports," he said. "For us every year we try so hard to get more out of it from the media, TV — anything — and all of a sudden everybody talks about hockey. It's great for our sport in Germany and it's already a big accomplishment."
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