Simon Kostner during Ritten’s opening-day win against Beibarys Atyrau. Photo: Max Pattis
Ritten forward hopes to make roster for Cologne
Simon Kostner is one of the Italian national team players with Ritten Sport who attempt to win the IIHF Continental Cup.
“I really feel well here in Ritten. It’s my third year here and since I arrived I felt well accepted. I almost feel like a Rittner,” Kostner says about the Italian champion.
“It makes great fun to play here and you can see that within the team and its atmosphere. One can also see on the ice that the team is a group of close friends who give everything for each other.”
That’s the way the small-town team made it to the top in the Italian league last season. The village of Klobenstein (or Collalbo in Italian) is not far from the South Tyrolean capital of Bolzano but about 1000 metres higher up a curvy road. Only about 1,400 people live here and a little bit less than 8,000 in the community of Ritten that includes 17 villages on the high plateau of the same name.
Kostner comes from an ice sport family that lives in Gherdeina, an Alpine valley known under different names with mostly German and Ladin-speaking communities.
“I still live there and work there. It’s just half an hour, so it doesn’t matter for me to drive up to Ritten every day,” says Kostner, who builds up a second leg to stand on beside playing ice hockey. “I’m self-employed in communications and social media for smaller companies.” He prefers to work on social media profiles for companies rather than for himself. That fits more to his character.
His father Erwin Kostner was a long-time hockey player for the Italian national team and HC Gherdeina and is an assistant coach on his team in Ritten and the head coach of the U20 national team. Among Erwin Kostner’s highlights were playing in the 1984 Olympics and the World Championship top division in 1983. His mother was into figure skating. And their children inherited their sports genes. Simon Kostner’s sister Carolina won the 2012 World Championship, several European Championships and Olympic bronze in Sochi 2014 in figure skating.
“When we were little, we were often at the ice rink. My mother always said that the rink was like a nanny for us. She sent us onto the ice and went shopping at that time while we had fun on ice,” he remembers.
Now Simon Kostner is starting to hit the international spotlight as well. The last two seasons he played for the men’s national team and last season he made the roster for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Katowice, Poland, where the team earned promotion. He was also playing in the Olympic Qualification for PyeongChang 2018.
Earlier as a junior he tried his luck abroad when he was 15. He played for Adler Mannheim in the top German junior league DNL. Then he moved to Jyvaskyla and played in the top Finnish junior league, played two seasons with the farm team in the second men’s league and four games with JYP Jyvaskyla in the top competition, Liiga. Since 2013 he’s back in Italy.
“If the chance occurs to play abroad, I’d of course be happy to take it. For players it’s for sure a goal and motivation to move to a higher league,” he says about his ambitions. “I’d like to get a chance. We’ll see.”
One reason he’s part of the national team is also that the “squadra azzurra” changed its face. The Italian federation wants to count more on homegrown players rather than naturalized players like in the past even if that meant staying longer outside of the top-16 nations than in the past when relegation usually was followed with promotion back to the top division the year after.
“Since a couple of years there is more focus on homegrown players on the national team. The team is pretty young but according to me you can see the first fruits,” Kostner says.
“We have some difficulties in scoring goals though but that will come. When you come to the national team right now it makes fun to play. All guys who are there are more or less in the same age group. One can see that like here in Ritten all are good friends and that helps on the ice. When one makes a mistake there are others who try to iron it out. That’s a very important thing for a team.”
For Kostner it could be a highlight season with having the Continental Cup on home ice and the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Cologne and Paris. Italy will play the preliminary round in Cologne with Russia, the United States, Sweden, Slovakia, host Germany, Latvia and Denmark. It’s still far away, Kostner says, but he cannot hide his enthusiasm about the event.
“I hope very much that I can be at the World Championship. I’ll do my best to make the national team roster,” he says.
“It’s been a life-long dream since my father told me his stories from the World Championships in his era. Since then it has always been a goal and dream to take part at the World Championship and compete against the best players in the world.”
First Kostner and his friends at Ritten Sport hope to win the Continental Cup. The loss against the Odense Bulldogs yesterday was a major setback but there’s still a marginal chance for them if Odense loses to Beibarys Atyrau and Ritten beats Nottingham in regulation time on Sunday evening.