Eisbären can still be Kings

Crosscontinental sister cities Berlin and LA share the same owner with regard to their pro hockey teams.

I was lucky to have spent two semesters at USC, where I practiced with the Trojan’s hockey team and met a pivotal friend who now lives in Berlin; the City of Angels is part of my life experience’s DNA.

So it was harder for me to accept the Kings sweeping loss to the Golden Knights, who are already writing history, on and off the ice, with the world’s most entertaining pre-game show and rows of local fans who are embracing the first major sports team in Sin City.

Tonight, record champion Eisbären Berlin, who are down 2-1 in the finals against Munich’s caffeine water branded team, need a win to keep the series balanced. I can’t help to see David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest corporate subsidies analogy when I see the jersey.

The Ice Bears are big in Berlin, tickets for both final home games sold out in a few hours, fans showed up in yesterday’s local night show and even the LA King’s Bailey is game. It won’t be easy against Munich though, they have a strong defense and plenty of offensive depth.

German miracle on ice, to be continued

After beating Canada as olympic pioneers, the front pages of German newspapers actually took notice for the first time in history

I first hit the ice as a five year old kid in Highland Park, Illinois, where I learned how to skate and shoot. I made my rounds in the rink and was immediatly hooked to the world’s fastest team sport.

Back in Germany as an eight year old, I picked up the nuances of the game’s team spirit, as well as the ability to quickly read scoring opportunities. I played in one of Germany’s best youth programs for three years, and still is, in Mannheim.

One of the most influential ideas on how to play the game was my experience at a hockey camp, Huron Hockey School, in Canada. It was the read and react concept that stayed, to get a grip on it’s speed, grace and grit in the motherland of hockey.

Being a hockey player or fan in Germany is akin to rugby’s visibility in the United States. Finding a public place to watch international tournaments, forget about it, let alone find someone to watch with besides your hockey buddies; the media pretty much ignores it.

 A small black, red and gold flag sits in balcony plants of an unrenovated apartment building in Berlin, on the day of the olympic final between OAR and Germany

Despite that, the national league, DEL, fills more seats than any other sport in Germany, only second to soccer, aka football. For some reason that never transferred into any other sphere of media, higher number of active players or boosted local fan fare, yet the times are changing.

Thanks to Germany’s record NHL player and head coach, Marco Sturm, who has a major stake in decision making from the bottom up, he’s planted the strongest seeds we’ve ever seen grow. This miracle run to the finals is not a fly by night, Sturm, which means forward by the way, it’s the beginning of a new era in German hockey.

Now it’s time to work harder at Powerplay 26, a program from the national hockey federation, to improve competitiveness on multiple levels. From building new rinks to improved cooperation between all leagues and sound investments in better youth programs.

Most importantly, it’ll be hockey moms and dads who are the baseline of Powerplay 26 and can carry the legacy of Pyeongchang, they’ll bring the kids to the rinks, cheer in the bleechers and influence other parents to follow suit. Hopefully by then, we’ll see more cover stories in German media about how to score with style and efficiency, our world class goalies and the strongest team spirit on ice.

Saad and Hawks crush Pens

I first touched ice as a Falcon, about 25 miles north of the Blackhawk’s home turf, where I learned the basics of the game, how to skate and shoot. Of all the cities I lived in the States, Chicago always felt the most home to me, so I get pumped when the Blackhawks do well and a re-aquired player returns with a bang only to beat the reigning champs 10 to 1.

via Chicago Tribune

Kings win first NHL game in China

Hockey is picking up momentum worldwide, countries such as the Philippines better known for boxing as well as their beautiful sunny islands recently took home their first cup at the Southeast Asian Games. And thanks to Graeme Townshend, Jamaica is eyeing another cool runnings at the Olympics. Even the desert has game with it’s own league in Dubai. Last but not least, meet the highly spirited Kenyan hockey team. Banking on that growth while opening up to one of the biggest markets in the world, the Kings and Canucks laced up some historic skates in Shanghai last night.

via Jewels From The Crown

Canadian Soft Power

Hockey is softer than you think, especially in global development aid

Pavel Barber, a stick handling specialist, helped out Japanese hockey phenom Aito Iguchi in Vancouver improve his skills. Toronto based Graeme Townshend is beating the odds as head of the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation in search of „Cool Runnings“ on skates: Jamaica is the first Caribbean nation to become an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). And Leon Draisaitl is already writing history. If Germans were as excited as the Oilers with hockey Made in Germany, we would see better tv deals, youth development and press coverage.

In Japan, Jamaica and Germany, hockey exists on the fringes of the public eye, excitement is lackluster, which makes it even harder for kids like Aito to hit the stars. At least it’s good to know that global development of the world’s fastest team sport is in Canadian hands. If anyone in Montreal is interested in Kenyan hockey, take a look at these pioneers.

World Cup of Hockey?

For the third installation of the „World Cup of Hockey“ in 2016, the Europe All-Stars will exclude Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden, but include countries such as Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Belarus, Estonia, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania (among others).

Wow, that’s the most confusing Team Europe ever. I can’t wait to hear the introduction on the ice to that one! Now two groups are being lumped together:

Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, USA, Europe All-Stars

Group B: Sweden, Finland, Russia, U23-North Americans

Sure, the best teams in Europe are the Czechs, Finns and Swedes, I think the Swiss could go solo as well in terms of performance. It’s a bit akin to the NBA World Championship or MLB World Series, not quite that global, rather North American. For a truly global world cup of hockey, I would like to add the Caribbean All-Stars to Group A, which includes players from Jamaica and Barbados.

via Puck Daddy

Larger look at life

I learned to play hockey in Highland Park, Illinois as a five-year old kid. It took a while until I was able to skate, handle the puck and get dressed all by myself. It was not until 1988, the Minnesota North Stars drafted the number one pick Mike Modano, when I first discovered an idol on the ice.

That year, I played a hockey tournament in West Berlin, a year before the wall fell. We played a team from Czechoslovakia, who dominated us with coordinated attacks and smoother techniques, even with simpler hockey gear, beat us on every corner of the ice.

In between games, I visited a pro shop in the now defunct rink at Jaffestrasse, and I heard about Modano for the first time. It’s where I got my first North Stars hat. It took a while until I saw Modano play on tv, it must have been in the early nineties in New York – ever since then I wanted to be like Mike. He had the same height and weight and I tried to emulate his style of play.

When Modano retired from the NHL in 2011, I was reminded how much of the game inspires my life and how important different idols and mentors are, ones who help you take a larger look at life.

Go with the Flow

22 as a Wildcat in 92

I hung onto the boards and made my rounds at the ice rink, kept going around in a circle until skating almost felt safer than walking. That first moment, when I hit the ice as a five year old Falcon, I was immediately hooked, determined to learn how to skate and play the game.

Hockey has been one of the greatest teachers in my life. I learned how to appreciate camaraderie, what it means to be part of a team. I learned how to accept defeat, acknowledge a stronger performance from the competition, only to learn and grow from defeat. I took my fair share of hits on the ice, coupled with a few cuts and bruises, only to get back up stronger than before. It taught me that speed can be graceful. I remember a hockey school coach who talked a lot about read and react, to anticipate a play ahead of time, taking action when it matters, being ready when the moment arrives, without thinking.

As a 14 year old in high school, I consciously experienced action without thinking for the first time, it was the strongest flow moment in my life so far. As a Wildcat, we played our biggest rival in the league, for the NY sound shore crown. The game was broadcast on local am radio, our principal was there and 800 people in the bleachers. I scored two goals as a 14 year old freshman, in the first offensive line, with two 18 year olds. We won 2 to 1.

Every stride, every pass, every shot, hit and shift was in sync with my body and mind. The radio host kept asking who this German kid is. I had potential of going further, to the bigger leagues, become a full time pro, but my path ended there, my focus as a teenager was somewhere else. I started playing again in college.

My biggest success with a team was the NCCA national championship in 1999. I had a solid year. I was on the title page of the sports section, in the local Vermont newspaper. The picture was taken right after I scored, my hands up in the sky, the headline read „The Biscuit is in the Basket.“

I played pro for two years in the 3rd division for the Beach Boys. My personal highlight was playing in front of 4.000 fans against the Berlin Capitals, in the now defunct Deutschlandhalle for a spot in the 2nd division. With the Beach Boys, I was happy to have played for the greatest coach in my career, one who gave me the opportunity to play pro.

Hockey without injuries ain’t hockey. I tore my ligaments, was blessed with around ten stitches in my face and partially lost two teeth. And a good chunk of bruises not worth mentioning. I’d say overall, I’m pretty lucky.

Albeit, it’s time to hang up my skates, I feel it, even though I was still fit to play in semi-pro leagues the past couple of years. I need to leave the game. You’ll see me playing pick up with friends or skating on the frozen ponds of this world, still feeling safer on skates than by foot.

I’ll miss the fans and former team mates, as well as the people who are the social glue of any club, who fill up the water bottles, show up to every practice and game, bring home brewed coffee and food to each ice time. And I have to thank my mom for being patient and supportive, who drove me to practice as a kid and knows how much hockey means to me.

In the meantime, I’ll continue my search for flow moments, to sync body and mind, only to get up with speed, grit and grace.