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Ice Hockey World Cup 2023: German ice hockey team wants to break out of the World Cup

Moritz Seider can outplay several Canadian favorites. His commitment strengthened the German World Cup team.

Foto: imago/ActionPictures

Sports commentators in Canada and the USA often refer to Leon Draisaitl as a “man on a mission”. To the chagrin of the new national ice hockey coach Harold Kreis, this mission does not include a medal hunt with the German national team. The 27-year-old Draisaitl, who has long since become the best player in German ice hockey history, wants to finally become NHL champion more than eight years after his debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the world’s strongest league. Many experts also trust him, after all, the native of Cologne scored an outstanding 13 goals in the first eight games of this year’s playoffs.

If he doesn’t score, like on Thursday night, his colleagues help out so that the Oilers equalized with a 4-1 home win against Las Vegas to make it 2-2 in the best-of-seven series. So Draisaitl still has work to do overseas, which is why he will definitely be missing from the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) team this Friday at the start of the World Championships in Finland and Latvia. If he also reaches the semi-finals with Edmonton, he will definitely miss the entire World Cup tournament.

So the star is missing, and he’s by no means the only one. A never-ending wave of cancellations hit the national coach in recent weeks. More than a dozen top performers did not travel to Tampere, many due to injury, but by no means all. Goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer is also still playing for the Stanley Cup in the NHL. “I still see a possibility with both of them. We haven’t had a clear no so far,” said DEB sports director Christian Künast.

Harold Kreis is more pragmatic: “It’s not a request concert.” After the additional cancellations of Patrick Hager, Matthias Plachta, Tim Stützle, Lukas Reichel, Tom Kühnhackl and Tobias Rieder, he had to find new talent, especially in the storm. In the end, the coach, known as a defensive lover, nominated nine players under the age of 24 and voluntarily renounced the three best German goalscorers of the past DEL season: Maxi Kammerer, Dominik Bokk and Daniel Schmölz (24 goals each).

However, the DEB has not moved away from the goal of qualifying directly for the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan. Participation in the quarter-finals could be enough for that, but maybe not. Germany is ninth in the world rankings, the top eight buy direct tickets and no longer have to compete in a qualifying tournament. Should Russia, which was originally supposed to host this World Cup, remain excluded because of the Ukraine war, ninth place in the list would also be enough.

Young does not necessarily mean inexperienced at DEB. “We’re a fast-paced team, where everyone’s hungry and working hard,” says John-Jason Peterka. The 21-year-old impressed in his debut season in the NHL and has risen to become a top performer in the current roster. The new star, however, is defender Moritz Seider. The man from the Detroit Red Wings had initially canceled because “the body needs a bit of a break” and minor injuries had to be cured. On Monday he then surprised everyone with the news that he wanted to join the World Cup team.

It’s not just Kreis that gives him credit for that. “He’s a fantastic international player who just strengthens us,” said the national coach. Seider’s colleagues were also happy and knew about the consequences of the decision. Finally, Seider faces important negotiations with the Red Wings and his first lucrative contract in the NHL. An injury at the World Cup would jeopardize all of that. “Nevertheless, to say: ‘I’ll do it.’ That’s really a strong performance from him,” praised DEB captain Moritz Müller, who had apparently also persuaded Seider: “I said to him: ‘It’s like Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility<. I think he has lived up to his responsibility in this situation.«

In the storm there are hopes for Nico Sturm. The 28-year-old doesn’t have the aura and goal threat of Leon Draisaitl, but he still has a Stanley Cup ahead of him from last year. In World Cup Group A, he should lead the German team to at least fourth place among eight teams. However, right at the start the three top nations in the group are up against each other: Sweden (Friday), defending champions Finland (Saturday) and the USA (Monday). At least in the preparatory games, which Germany completed with four wins and three defeats, they were clearly inferior to the »big players« Czech Republic and USA. It’s no coincidence that the DEB took a mental coach to the World Cup, who had discussed a lot with the team beforehand. “It’s also about how we deal with it if we don’t have a point after three games,” revealed the national coach.

Sports director Künast believes that the newly formed squad can also go far: “We have players who have incredible potential. World championships are also there to break out. We’ll be smarter after the tournament.«

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