Toni Söderholm had something to straighten out. “We’re not completely stupid either,” answered the ice hockey national coach at the streaming provider Magenta Sport to a question from which, in his opinion, one could have apparently concluded that he was exactly that: a stupid national coach. Söderholm was asked whether Dominik Bokk would not be one for the national team when the Germany Cup from November 10th to 13th is the last major measure of the German national team before the World Cup next spring. Söderholm’s answer was unequivocal: “We can’t afford not to invite him.” One like the 22-year-old Bokk, who scored ten goals and twelve assists in 18 games for the Löwen Frankfurt in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL), don’t leave it at home.
It is no longer a surprise that Bokk will wear the jersey of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) for the first time since the 2019 World Cup preparations when the first of three test games against Denmark is scheduled for this Thursday (7.45 p.m. on Magenta Sport). For many who are currently seeing this highly talented racer across the ice in the DEL, the much bigger question is why he hasn’t been there in recent years.
Söderholm, who is giving the established players a break in Krefeld, was recently confronted with it at a press conference. The national coach said that there were players who needed a little longer to consistently assert themselves at the highest level. Bokk has the skills for it – there has been agreement on this for years: At the age of 16 he scored almost 40 goals in 45 games in the German U-19 youth league. At the age of 17 he convinced in the strong first division in Sweden. And at 18, the St. Louis Blues selected him 25th in the first round of the NHL draft. Many thought: This is where the new Draisaitl matures.
However, Bokk has never completed a game in the North American professional league. First he continued to play in Sweden, then in the American AHL. Bokk did come up with good stats relative to his peers. The only problem: Bokk is someone you don’t compare to his peers. “I’ve had to go through a lot,” he says – most recently in Chicago: less playing time, less self-confidence. “I was no longer able to bring my game onto the ice,” says Bokk. A vicious circle. He adds self-critically: “It was also up to me.” Before the end of the main round he moved to Berlin, became German champion with the Eisbären, but didn’t have the influence on the game there that he wanted either.
Leading role in the Lions team
In the summer, his advisor told him about an offer that looked like another relegation: The Löwen Frankfurt asked Bokk, the promoted team from the DEL2. Sporting director Franz-David Fritzmeier has known the striker for a long time, has closely observed how his path has developed and what situation he was in in the summer. “It’s going to the top, you have great potential, you’re a first-round pick and you get a lot of attention,” says Fritzmeier: “A situation arose where not everything was right. He had to mature. And he still has to mature.”
Fritzmeier offered Bokk something: to take a supposed step back in order to get back to the front. The lions offered a key role in the team, responsibility, a lot of ice age and less media attention. What they promised from Bokk should come naturally if he would be willing to work on himself. And it came. The fact that Bokk agreed was also due to two players he will now meet at the Germany Cup: Luis Schinko and Leon Hüttl (both 22 years old) played for the lions before moving to the DEL and matured there as players. Now they are with the national team.
Where is he going? To the NHL!
Working with junior staff in Frankfurt does not go unnoticed. Bokk is also an asset to the club in that regard. He also brings some glamor to the dusty ice rink. On Instagram, he poses in designer outfits and wide-open shirts. At a press event arranged by the club in Frankfurt, he seems rather shy with his short answers. His left hand, on which a gold watch glitters, is in his trouser pocket almost the entire time. But when Bokk is asked about his goals, the short answers suddenly no longer sound reserved, but self-confident. Where is he going? Into the NHL.
In Frankfurt he’s getting something like a foretaste of it. Carter Rowney, who has been under contract with the Lions since this season, played 249 games in America’s elite league, won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh – and has harmonized with Bokk since day one as if the two have known each other for years. “You can see why Dominik is a first-round pick,” says Fritzmeier. But talent alone is not enough to make it into the best league in the world. The right timing is important.
And: “Having visions is always important. You have to actually already feel where you want to be – but you must never forget how hard you have to work to really get there.” He currently has no contact with the Carolina Hurricanes, from whom he was loaned to Frankfurt. Not bad, says Bokk. He wants to focus on his season. He is also happy in Frankfurt because it is not far to Schweinfurt. The journey by car takes two hours. His parents come to every home game. Understandable: your son wants you to have to fly again soon to see him.