Putin’s war extends to Finland: Germany plays for its ice hockey future

Putin’s war extends to Finland
Germany plays for its ice hockey future

By Tobias Nordman

At the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Germany’s national ice hockey team is keeping an eye on the gold medal. But instead of the big show, there is the rude disgrace – everything should get better at the World Cup. The warnings are not optimal, but there is hope.

The shadow of Vladimir Putin’s war extends as far as Finland. Not just because the country now wants to join NATO quickly so that the alliance’s power can counter the Kremlin chief’s provocations. Putin’s war in Ukraine also has an impact on the World Cup of Ice Hockey, which will be held in the cities of Helsinki and Tampere from Friday. “Sbornaja”, Russia’s always powerful national team, must not start as a result of the war. She is subject to international prohibition. Like the team from Belarus. Because dictator Alexander Lukashenko is seen as an ally of Putin.

Sportingly, the ban on the Russians is good news for the German selection. For there is only one top nation in the group of eight, Canada (joint world champions with Russia). Despite the Olympic debacle, countries like Slovakia and Switzerland are considered equal opponents of Germany. But where exactly is it measured in May 2022? Quite close to the absolute world elite? Or is it a little far away? The answer awaits – and it will be formulated after this tournament.

Germany staggers to Helsinki with the crushing burden of Beijing’s embarrassment and a very complicated preparation for the World Cup with poor results, mediocre performances and staffing problems. In the “Ice Rink” but all the heavy ballast from the last few months had to be checked away. Actually, Germany should bring its return to the world elite in the Hartwall Arena on the ice, but because two Russian oligarchs have shares in the hall, the venue was canceled. Another shadow of Putin at this tournament.

The team must write “own” history

Sporty: German ice hockey has learned a painful lesson in the last few months. In the intoxication of sporting happiness after remarkable achievements at the recent World Cups and the Germany Cup in November 2021, reality and euphoria came into a fatal imbalance. Beijing should be about gold. After the coup in Pyeongchang four years ago, it was not really an absurd announcement – but self-conviction paralyzed the team’s game. It was over before the quarterfinals. It was the first serious setback under national coach Toni Söderholm’s leadership. Since the end of 2018, the Finn had continued Marco Sturm’s path in an excellent way and strengthened his confidence in his cracks.

The German World Cup squad

Goalkeeper: Dustin Strahlmeier (Grizzlies Wolfsburg), Philipp Grubauer (Seattle Kraken / NHL), Mathias Niederberger (Eisbären Berlin); Defender: Dominik Bittner (Grizzlies Wolfsburg), Korbinian Holzer (Adler Mannheim), Kai Wissmann (Eisbären Berlin), Fabio Wagner (ERC Ingolstadt), Jonas Müller (Eisbären Berlin), Moritz Seider (Detroit Red Wings / NHL), Mario Zimmermann (Straubing Tigers )).), Moritz Müller (Cologne Sharks); Attackers: Maximilian Kastner (Red Bull Munich), Taro Jentzsch (Iserlohn Roosters), Stefan Loibl (Skelleftea AIK / Sweden), Tim Stützle (Ottawa Senators / NHL), Matthias Plachta (Adler Mannheim), Daniel Schmölz (Nuremberg Ice Tigers), Samuel Soramies (ERC Ingolstadt), Alexander Ehl (Düsseldorfer EG), Yasin Ehliz (Red Bull Munich), Marc Michaelis (Toronto Marlies / AHL), Daniel Fischbuch (Düsseldorfer EG), Leo Pföderl (Eisbären Berlin), Marcel Noebels (Eisbären Berlin), Alexander Karachun (Schwenninger Wild Wings);

Where should the journey go now? Söderholm rejected a specific goal. The Finn wants to give the team the chance to build their “own story”. It may, of course, end with the title, but that (the story) should not be thought of from the golden end. Which, among other things, star goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer is already doing again. But formulated more as a drive than as a goal. Not like in Beijing, where Germany was relentlessly spiced with the gloomy word from Canada, the United States and Slovakia. “I think we may have learned a bit from the Olympics in terms of this offensive expression of expectations,” said captain Moritz Müller. The danger of icy dream castles is not very great in Finland either. Unlike Beijing, the team does not arrive with a delighted sense of height.

Beijing’s disgrace has, moreover, been treated and ticked off. Tenth place out of twelve nations was also a personal defeat for the extremely ambitious Finn behind the gang. Söderholm no longer wants to talk about the mistakes in China. He is preoccupied with other things, which he admitted in an interview with the German press agency: “The important question for me is that we can answer the how-to question. How do we win matches? That we can see ourselves in the mirror again with in terms of identity. We had high expectations, but somehow the way-we-win was a bit lost. ” The impact of the games on the tournament now? “Zero. What has the Olympics got to do with this tournament?”

Some big names are missing

There are currently no supporting arguments for euphoria. Also not for swan singing at the German ice hockey height of recent years. And so this World Cup will be the judge of the current status. Within a year, he was swinging between the top of the world and just Depp. In any case, the road to a successful comeback among the best nations is paved. And right at the start of the tournament, the team can figure out where they stand and how much work they need to do. Top favorite Canada is Germany’s opening opponent (Friday from 7.20 pm live on Sport1 and in the ticker on ntv.de) and comes with massive NHL power. Although the very best of the best do not play, they continue to duel in the North American playoffs, but the squad seems smartly designed with established warhorses and up-and-coming top talents like Nick Holden, Ryan Graves, Dawson Mercer or Pierre- Luc Dubois.

The composition of the squad is also a major issue in Germany. For the national coach, it became a gigantic puzzle – with numerous setbacks and disappointments. He has to do without former NHL players Tom Kühnhackl (he won the Stanley Cup twice) and Tobias Rieder, among others. The reasons are not known. Dominik Kahun is not there either, he also has experience in the NHL. The 26-year-old is injured. The list of prominent failures can be continued, including Frederik Tiffels and Patrick Hager (both Red Bull Munich).

Söderholm, who is known for his pragmatism, sees things this way: “There are several reasons. If a player is injured, then he is injured. If a player has no energy, then he has no energy. If a player feels that way. feels he can not help the team, then he does not help the team either, and then we take the next one. There is nothing for me to argue about. ” And now it’s also the case that the German selection is still well cast, even though the tender hopes of a World Cup start from superstar Leon Draisaitl, who is on the verge of extinction with his Edmonton Oilers in the NHL, have been shattered. The German Ice Hockey Federation said on Thursday that a task “was not a problem”. However, it did not appear from the statement whether this applies to the entire tournament.

Hoping for reinforcements from North America

The possibility remains, however. The national coach keeps squad positions open to nominate forces from North America. For example, John-Jason Peterka, Leon Gawanke or Lukas Reichel. The chances for Nico Sturm, on the other hand, are pretty poor, his Colorado Avalanche doing well in the playoffs. However, the DEB team does not lack star potential. With Grubauer, Germany have one of the strongest goalkeepers in the world (and with Mathias Niederberger and Dustin Strahlmeier two excellent representatives), although his season with Seattle Kraken (a new NHL team) was not so excellent. Unlike Moritz Seider’s season. The 21-year-old is already considered one of the best defenders in the league and he is preparing an incredible 43 goals for his Detroit Red Wings! Incidentally, Seider has been shortlisted for the Calder Trophy since Wednesday, making him one of only three candidates left for the Rookie of the Year in the NHL. The other two candidates are on strike. And then there is Tim Stützle, who is expected to have a mega-career. With his technique and creativity he should inspire the German offensive.

“It’s good for German ice hockey, because the boys’ charisma helps the sport in Germany and brings us enormously forward with the quality of the team,” says captain Moritz Müller, who like his veteran colleague Korbinian Holzer will also take on a leadership role and shell. For the team is younger and less experienced than previous years. There are exciting debutants in Taro Jentzsch (Iserlohn Roosters), Alexander Ehl (Düsseldorfer EG) and Mario Zimmermann (Straubing Tigers). That does not have to be a disadvantage. Because speed, robustness and greed were things that German ice hockey had lost in Beijing. But all this philosophizing is nothing for Söderholm, who strives for virtuous humility after the Olympic lesson: “Cold, down-to-earth, hard – this is how we must work so that we can put ourselves in a position where we can succeed. That’s not what interests me. “

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