By Duncan Mackay

The Slovak Ice Hockey Federation (SZĽH) has chosen Martin Kohut as its new President for the next three years following a traumatic period for the sport in the country.

Kohut succeeded Igor Nemecek, who had only been re-elected last June, at special Congress that was organised to select new officials for the SZĽH.

The new President pledged to unify the Federation together and improve relationships amongst all stakeholders in Slovak hockey. 

Nemecek had agreed to step down in December and hold an election before the end of June following an agreement with Michal Handzuš, representing Slovak ice hockey players who were boycotting the national team.

The players had claimed that the SZĽH had become undemocratic under Nemecek, the former secretary general of the Federation, who had been elected President in 2011. 

Following Nemecek’s re-election, more than 50 Slovakian players wrote an election warning they would not play for the national team unless he was replaced.

Handzuš had decided not to stand for President but the players backed Kohut, a member of the SZĽH Executive Committee, ahead of his only rival, Tibor Turan.

“People have decided that they want things to change which is represented by my programme,” Kohut, who has been involved with the SZĽH since 2007 when the company he worked for started sponsoring the Federation, said.

“I will try to take advantage of my experience, knowledge and everything that I have learnt so far in my life to help Slovak hockey.

“I can’t promise the results, but I can promise to push our Federation forward.”

Former players were named to the SZĽH Executive Board, including Jozef Stumpel and Robert Svehla, who has also been appointed general manager of the national team. 

Kohut’s mandate includes building hockey arenas, increase the number of youth hockey programmes and working to develop ice hockey academies.

Slovakia finished ninth for the third consecutive World Championships in Russia in May. 

Their best performance had been in 2002 in Sweden when they won the gold medal.