Moritz Müller patted his heart with his fist and looked like the lover of his comrades who stood a few meters away from him. The captain of the German national ice hockey team had just come off the bench to receive the award for the best German player of the game. His left arm was bandaged, explaining why he was standing in shorts and jogging shoes: Müller could not finish the last German game at the World Cup in Riga (Latvia) as he had to dodge his arm during a fearless rescue operation. were hurt. When he took the award, his teammates hugged him and gave him a warm welcome. Once again, Mueller was close to tears.
The German team lost the game for third place against the United States on Sunday 1:6 and thus missed out on winning the first World Cup medal in 68 years. “Today was not our day,” said national coach Tony Soderholm. “Yesterday was our day, but unfortunately we didn’t win there.” 24 hours earlier, his team had lost the semi-finals against defending champions Finland (1:2) despite a strong showing.
At the World Cup, the German team kept its complexes, insisted the captain Müller.
Canada became world champions with a 3–2 final victory after extra time against the Finns. The Canadians crowned a wild tournament tour: for the first time in the history of the ice hockey homeland they lost their first three games in a World Cup tournament, including 1:3 against Germany. On the last day of the group, they had to rely on the German team and hosts Latvia not going into overtime. Germany almost won 2–1 – and the Canadians slipped to fourth in the group in the quarter-finals. There they eliminated the favorite Russians in extra time, followed by victories against the United States and Finland. “I remember the comments when our team was published before the tournament,” said attacker Maxim Komtois. “People were dissatisfied with the selection, they didn’t give us a chance. But we proved everyone wrong.” Canada sent a young, inexperienced team with no major NHL names to the tournament – and still leveled with record-winner Russia with their 27th World Cup title.
At the press conference desk where Moritz Müller sat with Marcel Nobles a short time later, the captain put on his jersey back. There he said: “Not a single eye went dry in the dressing room. This team deserved everything, teams like this don’t often come together.” Even viewers on TV must have wondered “how special this group is.” It’s a pity you haven’t been rewarded for it, “but the memories will live on.” Noables said: “We have grown into a family.” You can “feel the team spirit of this team”, said René Fassel, president of the World Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). In Korbinian Holzer and Moritz Seder, two selected for the German All-Star team, the 20-year-old Seder was also chosen as the tournament’s best defender.
“He trusts us to do things that no one previously thought we were capable of,” says striker Knoebels of national coach Soderholm.
The German team won many hearts at the World Cup in Riga, but was denied a reward for a strong tournament in the form of a medal. “It’s going to take a while until we realize what we’ve achieved here,” Defense Chief Holzer said before insisting. These three words best describe ice hockey’s new German self-image. Striving for more, the effort not to be satisfied with respectable successes, has reached into the minds of players. “We have put aside our complexes that we have been with us for years,” explained Captain Mueller. The process began with former national coach Marco Sturm, who led the German team to a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, and will now be continued by Tony Soderholm and his assistants. “We have a team of coaches who really trust us one hundred percent to play at this level. As a German, you have to understand this feeling in the true sense of the word,” said Müller.
Finn Söderholm, who took over from Sturm in January 2019, played a major role in this development. “Tony knows how to bring everyone in to get the best out of the team,” Noables said. The Finn is an example of faith in the team. “He trusts us to do things that no one previously thought we were capable of.” The reward: You get closer and closer to those national teams, “where six, seven, eight years ago everyone would have thought we’d get double digits,” Noables explained. Söderholm speaks of a “culture change” that began with the Olympic silver medal. In his opinion, it is not over yet. It probably still takes some time to set a “something can be achieved” goal. The foundation has been laid for this.
With all the positive aspects, in the decisive tournament games, the German team lacked only one thing: efficiency in the end. He scored only one goal in both against the United States and Finland, the second goal in the quarter-final against Switzerland, which saved the German team in extra time, with an extra field player coming just before the end. In today’s ice hockey it is very important to generate traffic in front of the opposing goal. “This is where German players can improve,” Soderholm explained. Playing in the attacking target zone, “that’s where we have to develop.” So that there are tears of joy at the end of the next German ice hockey event.