That’s why the Eisbären Berlin are back in the final

When a series comes to an end in the ice hockey play-offs, everything is often suddenly different. Then bitter rivals become confidants. They were just working hard every other day, but now they say goodbye warmly and praise each other. This happened again on Wednesday evening.

The Eisbären Berlin defeated the Straubing Tigers with 3-2 goals after extra time and thus achieved the decisive fourth victory in the fifth semi-final duel. But despite all the joy about reaching the final, no Berliner forgot to say a few warm words to the Lower Bavarians. “Respect to Straubing, they caused us a lot of problems,” said Eisbären coach Serge Aubin and congratulated the Tigers on a “great season.” That’s just how you do it.

But one could believe Aubin that this was more than the usual politeness in the industry. The series was much closer than the 4:1 would suggest. Four of the five games ended with a one-goal difference, two went into overtime. So Eisbären striker Tobias Eder said with a view to the final series against Bremerhaven starting next Wednesday: “We definitely have to go one or two steps further.”

“We never doubted him”

Aubin will see it the same way. But the 49-year-old will have no doubts as to whether his team can do that. The whole season is just one ramp up. Because the previous one had been pretty miserable for the record champions of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL). In 2023, as defending champions, the Berliners didn’t even reach the play-offs. For the first time in 22 years, the most exciting time of the ice hockey year took place without the polar bears.

Normally in such a case the coach has to leave – usually during the season. Just look at Mannheim, where there were four different head coaches in two years. But Berlin sports director Stéphane Richer did the opposite and extended the contract. “Serge Aubin is the right coach for the Eisbären. We are absolutely convinced of his qualities and have never doubted him,” he said at the time.

Now you shouldn’t forget that the two French Canadians have a special connection with each other. They have already been working together at the Hamburg Freezers for five years. Aubin first came as a player, later he became an assistant and head coach. That only ended because the Freezers were dissolved in 2016 by their owner, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) from the United States. Richer initially went to the NHL as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings, and shortly later he moved on to Berlin. He stayed with the company; these two clubs also belong to AEG.

Aubin, in turn, moved to Vienna, became Austrian champion, and from there to Zurich, but it didn’t work out in Switzerland. And when the Berliners were looking for a new coach in 2019, Richer called on his old trust and brought him to the Eisbären. Since then, things have been going well again for the club, which dominated the DEL from 2005 to 2013 with seven championships in nine years.

Aubin’s first season was canceled due to the corona pandemic, after which he led the Eisbären to the title in 2021 and 2022. So Richer looked elsewhere for the reasons for the crash the following year. He brought in a dozen new players, gave the team a new hierarchy, and Kai Wissmann, who had just returned from North America, became captain. But the coach stayed the same. That paid off.

“We won the championship twice in a row. It was more a question of how we can quickly get back to our old strength,” Aubin told the Berlin television station RBB during the main round. The polar bears were back in the top group for a long time. They finished the points round in second place and in the play-offs they eliminated Mannheim and Straubing in five games each. This is mainly due to Aubin, we hear from those around the team.

Bernd Schwickerath Published/Updated: Recommendations: 4 Bernd Schwickerath Published/Updated: Published/Updated:

Attention to detail, good communication, the right mix of a long leash and clear announcements. He is described as tough but warm. And with clear tactics. He doesn’t like cross-play, the polar bears win the puck, go forward, if necessary the puck is played deep and chased after. He is more flexible when it comes to his line composition. There is a lot of exchange back and forth, even during the game. But less to confuse the opponents than to keep the tension high in his team. So far it’s working excellently. The Berliners are still four wins away from celebrating their third championship in four years. With a coach who would have been fired long ago elsewhere.


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