Toni Söderholm still remembers exactly what it was like when he played his first ice hockey games. He was just two years old, sitting “on the steps of the press box” at Helsingin Jäähalli, the old ice rink in Helsinki. “I saw my first idols there,” says Söderholm almost four decades later.
In between, the Finn was even such an idol himself, played ten years for the professionals at Helsingfors IFK, several as captain. To this day, the old ice stadium from 1966 has something magical for Söderholm, he knows “how it smells there,” he said recently.
First time behind the gang
This Friday (7.20 p.m. at Sport 1 and Magentasport) Toni Söderholm will be behind the Jäähalli gang for the first time as a coach. Then the 85th Ice Hockey World Championship will start there for the German national team with the game against Canada. And Söderholm can look forward to support. Friends and family will be there to cheer on the national coach and his team.
It is the first opportunity for them to forget the Olympic Games, when it was over before the quarter-finals despite full-bodied medal ambitions. It’s about “reparations,” says striker Marcel Noebels.
Overall, the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) could use positive headlines. After years with good to very good results at the World Championships, the 2018 Olympic silver medal and new, internationally celebrated talents, the problems have recently piled up: the men’s early Olympic exit, the women who didn’t even make it to Beijing, the sagging youngsters. At the U-18 World Cup two weeks ago, the DEB team had no chance at all. Experts look bleakly into the near future, the next exceptional talent is not to be seen.
Meanwhile, things were really turbulent in the DEB. Several regional associations accused the then President Franz Reindl of a conflict of interest because, in addition to his honorary post, he was also the paid managing director of a subsidiary. Now the public prosecutor’s office is investigating, Reindl himself sees himself exonerated by the investigation of a law firm.
The proof that he “always worked in accordance with the law”. The presidency around Peter Merten, which was newly elected last week, also considers the case closed, the quite harmonious general meeting shows that one can look to the future “without much ballast”. But it won’t be “a piece of cake,” said Reindl, who said goodbye to his successor with a long round of applause.
DEB expects losses
In fact, there is a lot to do: The camp struggle in the association must be pacified, and the mood at the office has been better. In addition, the DEB is to be rebuilt, it has to be “entrepreneurial” with a supervisory board instead of a board, said Merten, who now has to get a World Cup application for 2027 off the ground.
You need a home tournament every few years to fund the operation. For 2022 and 2023, the DEB expects losses. And then there are the standard issues: league operations, young talent, the ice rink dying.
It has to be the quarterfinals
All of this requires money. And that mainly comes in through the men’s national team. The new presidium stipulated that it must continue to be the “driving force”. A successful World Cup is all the more important, it has to be the quarter-finals.
That’s not unrealistic in a preliminary round group that only knows one top team, Canada, because the Russians were excluded because of the attack on Ukraine. However, it will not work in passing.
Slovaks (opponents on Saturday) and Swiss are strong, the Danes are on par, the Kazakhs can be exhausting. Against Italy and France, on the other hand, the Germans are the clear favorites – although they are hardly used.
Again against Canada
This was due to the difficult preparation. Due to the extended DEL season, several players only joined the team this week, others canceled, some “a little at short notice”, as Söderholm noted. There are also injuries.
The national coach is all the more pleased that he has three players from the NHL elite league in his squad: goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer, defender Moritz Seider and center forward Tim Stützle. They also arrived late, but they would bring the team “enormously forward”, says Captain Moritz Müller.
They should show that against Canada. The same opening opponent as three months ago in Beijing. It’s true that there are different squads now, because NHL players are back at the World Cup, but according to defender Korbinian Holzer, the 1:5 hasn’t been forgotten: “We know how things started at the Olympics. We will be warned.”