Harold Kreis turned 64 in January. For more than half a century, almost everything in life has revolved around ice hockey for the German-Canadian. During these days he gets to know his profession from an unfamiliar side. As national coach, Kreis is preparing for the German national team to take part in the World Championships in Finland and Latvia in May.
The hot phase begins in the week after Easter with two international matches in Hesse, one in Kassel (April 13) and one in Frankfurt (April 15). The opponents are the selection of the Czech Republic. He experienced “a lot of new things” in the first few days since he closed the chapter as head coach at the Schwenninger Wild Wings and took over the successor of Toni Söderholm, who had migrated to the Swiss league to SC Bern, at the German Ice Hockey Federation.
The goal is to reach the quarterfinals
His eyes were “quickly opened” to how much “more planning” was involved in the management task, which after positions at twelve clubs offered him the opportunity to give his career an international touch again: “Now I have to I juggle a lot of balls,” Kreis said. He announced that he wanted to continue the work of his predecessor in terms of content because the team had shown that it could “play good ice hockey”. He will “change nothing earth-shattering”. In 2019, the Germans took sixth place in the title fights, in 2020 the tournament fell victim to the pandemic, in 2021 they missed a medal in fourth place and last year they pulled themselves out of the affair in seventh place.
Kreis described the entry into the quarterfinals as the most important goal for the upcoming championship, because it would probably secure the qualification standard for the 2026 Olympics. In fact, there is still no confirmation from the International Olympic Committee or the Ice Hockey World Association as to whether these regulations will remain in place – because there is still a lack of binding guidelines, such as the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine in the future with the currently banned Russians and Belarusians should be dealt with. “There are many question marks,” said sporting director Christian Künast, “but we’re going our own way.”
Kreis would like to put together a squad that is defined by running strength and willingness to fight. “Our goal is maximum success.” Because he knows that the chances are much better if he can fall back on the legionnaires employed in North America, he recently focused his commitment on communication with the men in the NHL.
He can’t count on Draisaitl
Kreis has not yet received any binding commitments, but there has been interest in his plans. He is optimistic, said Kreis, that he will soon be able to include some of the outstanding cracks. That probably applies to Nico Sturm (San Jose), JJ Peterka (Buffalo) and Lukas Reichel (Chicago), while he has to see how Tim Stützle (Ottawa) and Moritz Seider (Detroit) put up with the hardships.
He cannot count on Leon Draisaitl. The 27-year-old is racing from one personal record to the next and is fueled more than ever by the hope of fulfilling his Stanley Cup dream with Edmonton. He will observe all developments “patiently and optimistically”, said Kreis. This serenity also spoke for him in the DEB selection process.