The break was extremely short. Last Saturday, the Eisbären players presented the championship trophy to their fans during a trip through the capital in an open-top bus. Some of the celebrations of the past few days were visible. But for five Berliners, the exhausting season is going into overtime, only six days after winning the title, they traveled to the German national ice hockey team to prepare for the world championship. Toni Söderholm’s team will start the tournament against favorite Canada (7.20 p.m., Sport1) in Helsinki on Friday.
After a very disappointing performance at the Olympic Games, where the national team only won their match against hosts China, Söderholm has completely rebuilt its team. The Finn travels home with a completely renewed squad. A total of 14 players who were still on the ice in Beijing are no longer in the squad.
The reasons are varied: Some, like defender Marco Novak, were no longer nominated, others like former NHL professional Dominik Kahun or Munich’s Frederik Tiffels are injured and others like Tobias Rieder and Tom Kühnhackl have asked for a slightly longer summer break after a long season to obtain.
In contrast to the Olympics, Söderholm can rely on three players from the NHL: goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer from the Seattle Kraken, defender Moritz Seider and striker Tim Stützle will form the team’s corset. Söderholm is particularly hoping for a lot from 21-year-old Seider. The Detroit Red Wings defenseman has had a fantastic debut season in the NHL. In the 82 preliminary round games he collected an incredible 50 points (seven goals, 43 assists), making Seider a candidate for Rookie of the Year in the best ice hockey league in the world. “Every athlete has an approach to wanting to be among the best in the world – I try to live up to that. But you have to pinch yourself from time to time and be proud of what happened,” said Seider.
His national coach raves about him. “Limits with Moritz Seider? Are there any? I do not think so. He is a phenomenon, that describes him well. But he just stays the character he is. No matter where he is, who he is with. I think that’s what sets him apart the most. He also has a winning head,” said Söderholm.
As a strong offensive defender, Seider should primarily stimulate the power play, in which Germany was extremely disappointing at the Olympics. Along with 21-year-old Stützle, who also had a strong season with the Ottawa Senators with 22 goals and 36 assists, he will be the epicenter of the German game on the power play. “I already see them as leaders,” said Söderholm about the two youngsters. Stützle is one of nine players in the German squad playing their first World Cup in Finland. “It’s nice that many are now playing their first major tournament or their first World Cup. Hopefully they’ll get an experience of a lifetime,” said Söderholm.
While the Finn was very self-confident about a medal as a goal before the games in Beijing, he and his players are playing softer tones ahead of the World Cup. The appearance last February brought German ice hockey back down to earth after Olympic silver in 2018 and fourth place at the last World Cup. The preparation for the World Cup was bumpy, Germany has only won three of its seven friendlies. However, Söderholm experimented a lot and only after the final 3-1 win against Austria did they get the full squad together for the first time.
“But the way the squad is now, we can be very happy with the way the boys are doing. It’s a learning group,” said Söderholm. The 44-year-old did not want to set a specific goal. In the preliminary round group with Denmark, France, Italy, Canada, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Slovakia, it will be a question of finishing at least fourth in order to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The team will have to do without the help of the best German ice hockey player and one of the best strikers in the world. Leon Draisaitl is currently battling Los Angeles with the Edmonton Oilers for a place in the second round of the playoffs. The Oilers won the sixth game 4-2, now the decisive game is in Edmonton.
Even if the Oilers are eliminated, it’s almost impossible for Draisaitl to join the team in Finland. Others will have to judge, the youngsters from the NHL and also the players from the champions from Berlin, who will certainly go into the opening game against Canada rested.