Monday, June 7th, 2021
Declaration of love from the DEB coach
The most brutal end of the World Cup hero’s journey
By Tobias Nordmann
Germany’s ice hockey players gave two chances to win the historic medal at the World Cup in Riga. Against Finland in a dramatic way, against the United States, nothing was possible anymore. But despite the disappointment, the chosen path is correct.
It was not only in the game for third place that the thought came up about what would have happened if Leon Draisaitl had joined the German national ice hockey team in the days of Riga. The thought preoccupied one more and more agonizingly with every desperate shot that Toni Söderholm’s team pounded at the opponent’s goal in the two medal games. In the semifinals against Finland. In the bronze duel against the USA. Now it is really only fair to take Sunday’s humiliation out of the bill. After a tournament that was physically and mentally an uninterrupted borderline experience, there was simply no more strength against the US boys. Especially not after the first goal. Starting again and again, catching up, it doesn’t go forever.
Yes, a man who relaxes the acute final cramp would have done this team good. Draisaitl would have been one of them. Without doubt. After all, Draisaitl is one of the very best players in the best league in the world. But maybe everything would have turned out very differently. Perhaps the focus on the superstar would have taken the special from this team. That brutal passion to do anything for everyone. Spirit beats star, you’ve seen it often enough. One can continue this discussion. Or just cancel it. Because Draisaitl wasn’t there. And the tournament of the German team was outstanding. The 1: 6 clap in the historic bronze medal game doesn’t change that either. Just as little as waiting for precious metal.
An almost surreal development
Whether 68 years (current status), 69 years or 70, what the heck. The only important thing is: it should now work out slowly. In contrast to 2010, when German ice hockey could hardly benefit from the euphoria after fourth place at the home World Cup, the little hype should now stick to it for a long time. And in fact the situation is completely different than it was eleven years ago, when the team came mainly through struggle and passion. Germany is now playing really good ice hockey. How good, the team showed, among other things, in the first two knockout duels. Switzerland, which was very strong during the tournament, was played out brilliantly at times, the Finns dominated at times. The fact that a reigning champion against a DEB team is only concerned with blocking shots and getting the puck out of his own third is an amazing development.
A development that is primarily due to the clubs’ significantly improved youth work. With Moritz Seider (he’s already established), with Lukas Reichel, with Jason-John Peterka, guys played in Riga who will definitely soon be seen in the NHL. Lean Bergmann or quarter-final hero Leon Gawanke – he saved Germany against Switzerland in the last minute in overtime – are already playing in the AHL, the substructure, the showcase of the best league in the world. The fact that one day, like Draisaitl, they will no longer be available for the DEB team because the dates overlap, is the price of success.
National coach Toni Söderholm is also responsible for the success. He has further developed the German game as the successor to Marco Sturm. Has given the game its own idea. “We have found a piece of the DNA for German ice hockey,” says the Finn. It is a DNA of struggle, passion, courage and the joy of playing. “We need players who are 1000 percent helpful to the team. We need players who make the team stronger, not just playfully. The players we had were all outstanding in this area. The squad is just incredible. It was one for me Honor with these players. ” A declaration of love.
World Cup heroes get an Olympic bonus
Söderholm is therefore also giving its World Cup heroes a bonus with regard to the squad nomination for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. “I think the players who have been here now have definitely recommended themselves very positively for whatever is to come.” That also means: No license for the top stars around Draisaitl, super talent Tim Stützle or goalie Philipp Grubauer, who will probably be there in February.
In fact, this team had sacrificed itself for success. Over and over again Korbinian Holzer and his colleagues threw themselves into shots regardless of their bodies, over and over again they looked for the tough arguments in the gang. Didn’t they put up with the opponents’ provocations. Defended themselves. Even in pain. A scene from this World Cup: How Tom Kühnhackl crawled and hobbled off ice after a murderous slap shot that he had blocked with his ankle in the leg, only to come back a little later, do hard checks, block shots. Just a symbol. For many other moments. That these were not rewarded, but ended in a final humiliation against fresh and playfully impressive Americans, one last, a bitter drama.
Defense veteran Holzer, who was elected to the all-star team of the World Cup, as well as youngster Seider, leaned exhausted on his stick after the clap and struggled brutally disappointed for words. “Everyone worked their asses here for weeks. Supervisors, players, the whole staff. Such a great group. That’s why it hurts all the more that we haven’t rewarded ourselves with precious metal.” Nevertheless, the pride gradually came through. The team has established itself among the four top nations with five wins (in ten games) in the tournament – only for the fifth time in World Cup history. “We have”, said captain Moritz Müller, “discarded our complexes”. Even without Leon Draisaitl. Without their best. But the thought of him remains.