Month: September 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Q & A with Shaylene Swanepoel

Shaylene Swanepoel 10 year veteran of south Africa Women’s National Team

By George Da Silva – National Teams of ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Shaylene Swanepoel a 10 year veteran of the South African Women’s National Team and also a awesome chiropractic.

How did you get started in ice hockey?

Ice hockey isn’t exactly considered a common sport to be played in South Africa. We used to go to the public sessions and skate for hours at a time. From there we met the “better skaters” that actually introduced my sister and I to ice hockey. This was something different and fun to try do… I mean, my sister and I weren’t allowed to Rollerblade, however we managed to twist my parents arm into trying to play ice hockey.

Why did you become a goaltender?

For about 3 years I played defence. My ex-boyfriend used to play in goal… So I thought why not give it a go?

It turned out I wasn’t that bad – had a decent blocker and a not too bad butterfly for a first timer. I kept on playing in goal because I loved the challenge, I do find that goalkeepers at times get over looked and maybe not enough credit for some of their efforts. It’s a huge mental game, not only physical. The training is also unique which makes you a huge part of the team. Makes me feel great that I can contribute in some way to my team.

Some may say I just don’t like to get off the ice haha, as being part of the reason. But it really is a position where not only do you get to appreciate the game by watching, but also by being involved and part of the action.

Shaylene Swanepoel concentrates on #10 of Belgium in front of her goal.

How did women’s hockey get started in south Africa and is women’s hockey growing in the country?

South African Ice Hockey has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) since 1937. Due to sanctions we were not allowed to participate in IIHF world championships until 1994. The first Woman’s team to represent South Africa in an international event was 1999. It was difficult years to try and qualify for World championships, in those day’s. It was difficult for woman players as there was no woman’s league and female players played and competed with their male counter parts.

Since those early day’s a lot has changed. Woman’s ice hockey development increased tremendously since then. Our numbers steadily increased to more then 175 female players in the country from all ages, races and religions.

There isn’t much information on the web about domestic women league in South Africa, can you tell us about it?

All provinces now has development woman players, playing half/cross ice games, in the smaller provinces these woman teams will play against junior boys teams except for Gauteng Ice Hockey Association where they have 4 development ladies teams since 2015 which compete in their own league against each other with the youngest player as young as 7 years old since most ladies still play in teams with their male counterparts. Gauteng ice hockey created an all woman’s team the Black Panthers in 2013, this team compromised off all their elite woman players (most of which were national team players) competing in the U18 boys league. In 2017 Gauteng Ice Hockey created a Junior Panthers team for younger female players showing potential, they competed in the U16 boys league. It became evident that woman change their game when they play against woman then when they play against men therefore, Gauteng created a senior woman’s league in 2019, they created 2 equal strength teams to compete against each other, it is important for the younger players to play and learn from the older players, as a result the Junior Panthers program has been discontinued.

How has the coronavirus pandemic effect ice hockey in the county?

The Corona Virus pandemic impacted the sport tremendously. All ice hockey activities was suspended since the lock down started, as a result our U18 Men’s and Senior Men’s tours for the IIHF world championships has been cancelled. We also withdrew our U20 team which were supposed to participate in their tournament during January 2021 in Mexico City. On ice practices are only starting now, there is a lot of hard work ahead of us to be able to participate in the rest of the Championship schedule, in February, March and April 2021.These are all dependent on pandemic control. During the lock down, SAIHF in partnership with Star Zone sport in Sweden, presented a winner heads program to keep players off ice skills and fitness up. For our National program the SAIHF director of coaching, Andre Marais, worked with APA training systems for a more intense off ice fitness program.

You have represented your country in 10 IIHF world championships, what is your most memorable tournament?

Wow, 10 already.

I would have to say our most recent one in Bulgaria December 2019 (2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division III). After playing numerous tours, winning gold definitely takes the cake.

South Africa captures gold at the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division III

Did you ever have any offers or want to leave South Africa to play hockey at a higher level?

Unfortunately no offers, it would have been great though. I would have loved to have tried to get to play anywhere in the world. A lot of the time, funding is a huge part of why some of us can’t get to other parts of the world for exposure.

But if I could even get a chance to be one of the treating Chiropractors for one of the teams, that would also be amazing.

Shaylene Swanepoel leads her team to a 2-1 victory over Hong Kong

You now have other African countries playing the game like Kenya, Algeria and Morocco. Do you think the game can grow on the African continent?

Definitely YES! It would be fantastic! It may be challenging considering our climate on this side of the world. Funding and investments is also some of the hurdles we all may face. However why not start somewhere? It just may take a bit of time.

You are now a chiropractic. Why did you pick this line of work?

On my first hockey tour….we had a Chiropractor on as our team Medical Doctor. I didn’t know what Chiropractors were until I had seen what she had done for our team. This got me into researching and observing what Chiropractors do for not only athletes, but also for babies, adults, geriatrics, as well as pre and post surgery patients. It showed me how we as a profession can make a difference in someone’s life, and I fell in love with the profession and never looked back.

Outside of hockey and your professional career, what are your goals?

That’s a very good question…. It’s a tricky one to answer. My goal is to live a long and happy life with the ones I love around me.

Shaylene Swanepoel and the rest the South African Women’s National Team

Awards: 
2010-2011
World Championship (D4) Top Player on Team

2014-2015
World Championship (D2BQ) Best GAA (1.27)
World Championship (D2BQ) Best SVS% (.951) 
World Championship (D2BQ) Bronze Medal

2015-2016
World Championship (D2BQ) Bronze Medal

2016-2017
World Championship (D2BQ) Bronze Medal

2017-2018
World Championship (D2BQ) Bronze Medal

2018-2019
World Championship (D2BQ) Bronze Medal

2019-2020 World Championship (D3) Gold Medal

Rick Fera: The quiet man who came alive on the ice pad

Rick Fera shadowed by his former Murrayfield Racers’ line-mate, Tony Hand

By Allen Crow – Fife Today

Rick Fera was one of the most prolific points scorers of ice hockey’s modern era.

A man of many clubs and few words, the enigmatic forward knew the route to goal better than most of his peers.

His time at Fife Flyers spanned just two seasons – one he loved, one which drove him to frustration and ended with a long suspension.

Fife Flyers imports Rick Fera and Steve Gatzos celebrate a goal, season 1990-91

It also contained one singular career highlight – his 1000th point as a pro hockey player.

The moment was captured by Bill Dickman, chief photographer of the Fife Free Press, who profiled him with his arms loft jumping for joy; a special, private moment for an intensely private man.

Fera’s UK career spanned 14 years and nine clubs, and he was the leading scorer at almost each and every one of them.

A native of Keswick, Ontario, he came to these shores from the OHL, and struck gold from the very start.

Rick Fera, Fife Flyers celebrates his 1000th career point in UK ice hockey

Fera joined Murrayfield Racers in 1985/86 where his partnership with Tony Hand was astounding – his 196 points haul just two ahead of his line mate.

The following season their telepathy took them to an even higher plane as Fera plundered 242 points and Hand 216.

It was the first of several phenomenal partnerships Fera struck up as he roamed, almost nomadically, around the UK hockey circuit.

At Trafford he bagged 229 points, and found a perfect foil in Sylvain Naud, while Basingstoke Beavers saw him team up with two greats, Kevin Conway and Mario Belanger. Fera’s 181 points just pipped Conway on 171 and Belanger on 167.

They were streaks ahead of the rest of the team – Basingstoke’s next highest points scorer was defenceman, and future Flyer, Russ Parent on 74.

At Fife, Fera’s speed and skill were perfectly complemented by French Canadian, Luc Beausoleil – 153 and 124 points respectively – as they spearheaded the team coached by Rab Petrie in 1989/90.

Fera returned, excited at the prospect of lining up with new signing Hilton Ruggles, a sniper of a forward who made his name with Whitley Warriors, but the club opted for a massive U-turn in mid-summer.

Out went Ruggles even before setting foot in Fife, and in came two Czechs Jaromir Korotvicka and Lubos Oslizo. The switch to European hockey didn’t work and was quickly jettisoned.

In came former NHLer Steve Gatzos, long past his peak, and the partnership with Fera misfired completely.

New coach, the no nonsense Mike Fedorko, split them up, and dumped Fera in the third line, playing relatively inexperienced young local Brits up ahead of the Canadian.

When the player was injured he found himself de-registered to make way for Darcy Cahill – a player with a big reputation who didn’t live up to the billing.

Isolated, Fera kept his counsel as results tanked, and the team hit rock bottom. Fedorko, Cahill and company all departed.

But his nadir came in January when a season soaked in utter frustration finally exploded when Fera – one one of the mildest mannered guys on the circuit – exploded.

He was thrown out of a game against Durham. Hustled to the sin bin, he threw a chair at Wasps’ player, Ian Cooper.

A brief moment of mayhem resulted in a ban for the rest of the league league campaign.

The following season he headed south to Trafford where his wandering journey around British ice hockey continued.

Three decades on, his remarkable scoring feats still stand the test of time – a true reflection on a player blessed with skill, pace and a deadly finish.

Wilson fueling rise of women’s game in Mexico

15-year-old making strides in quest to help home country win Olympic medal

By William Douglas NHL.com

Luisa Wilson said people sometimes do double takes when she tells them about her hockey roots.

“Sometimes when I’m in Canada, I’ll be practicing and they’re like, ‘You’re good, where are you from?’ I’m like, ‘I’m Mexican,'” she said. “And they’re like, ‘Mexico has hockey?’ I’m like, ‘We have hockey and ice rinks, the entire thing,’ and they can’t believe it.”

Luisa, a 15-year-old who was born in central Mexico, is turning more people into believers.

She made history when became the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal when she won the gold competing on a multinational three-on-three hockey team at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January.

“It’s really cool being able to expand the sport that I really love in Mexico,” Luisa said. “It’s amazing what this sport can do to change your life, and I want more kids to be able to experience that.”

Luisa knew she had done something special when the gold medal was draped around her neck at the award ceremony on the ice, “but I didn’t know how big it was until I got to Mexico and there were reporters there,” she said.

She added a bronze medal to her collection weeks later playing for Mexico at the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City.

“It was an awesome experience being able to play with the Mexican team, representing Mexico in Mexico with Mexicans cheering me on because when Mexico cheers, Mexico cheers,” said Luisa, who scored two goals in the tournament. “They bring drums and everything.”

Mexico Under-18 at the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City

Luisa’s exploits have earned her recognition throughout Mexico and beyond. She landed on Forbes Mexico’s list of the 100 powerful women of Mexico in 2020, a who’s who that includes actress and producer Salma Hayek, Hyundai Mexico CEO Claudia Marquez, Kellogg Latin America president Maria Fernanda Mejia, and Graciela Marquez, Mexico’s secretary of the economy.

The hockey gloves Luisa wore during the Youth Winter Olympics are at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, said her mother, Laura San Roman Onate.

That’s pretty lofty stuff for a teenager who began skating as a 3-year-old with her father, Brian, a Canadian who was coaching hockey and playing rugby in Mexico.

Most people don’t associate hockey with Mexico, but the country has been an IIHF member since 1985 and has more than 3,000 registered players, most of them youth. Mexico has 22 indoor rinks, according to the IIHF.

The family moved around in Mexico for coaching jobs for Brian Wilson and more ice time as Luisa and her two brothers, Jack and Thomas, progressed as players.

Luisa Wilson, the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal

In 2017, the family relocated to suburban Toronto so the children could get more hockey experience and games. Luisa said she plays 50 to 60 games a season now as opposed to in Mexico, where she played about 40 games a season.

“My version of the story is we were in the kitchen and my dad and my brother were, like, we should move to Canada,” Luisa said. “And I was, like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And my mom was, like, ‘We can’t just move to Canada.’ And we did.”

San Roman Onate recalled that by the time she heard about the Canada idea, it was a done deal.

Wilson’s paternal grandparents were so excited, they had already decided “‘We’ll sell our house in Parry Sound, we’ll move to Toronto so the kids can come to Toronto and go to school and play hockey in the afternoon,'” San Roman Onate said. “Everybody moved for hockey.”

Luisa said the move has paid off in making her a better player. She said she cringes when she watches old videos of her playing.

“I had no hockey sense back then,” she said. “I really liked playing defense because I got to stay in front of the net and just pound kids down onto the ice. That was my go-to move, basically. I knew how to skate because we used to practice 16-17 hours a week on the ice. But we were terrible hockey players because we only got a tournament like once a year.”

Luisa’s increased ice time in Canada and her performance at the Youth Winter Olympics and IIHF world championship have set her focus on playing college hockey and representing Mexico at the Winter Olympics someday.

The Mexico Ice Hockey Federation wants its national women’s national team, ranked 26th in the world by the IIHF, to compete in the Winter Games in the near future.

“Every day of the week, I’m working out so when the time comes, if I can be on that team, I could actually help them,” Luisa said of the women’s national team. “If I can be on that team, I want to help them, not be a bench-warmer.”

LATAM Cup and Hockey in Latin America is Fueled by Passion

By Mike Lewis – Florida Panthers

Passion for the game has no limits or borders.

For South Florida native Juan Carlos Otero, the burgeoning hockey scene in Latin America is what inspired him to found Amerigol Miami International Hockey Association.

A self-professed “hockey fanatic” of Colombian heritage, Otero operates Amerigol with the mission of growing hockey’s presence throughout Latin America by organizing tournaments and showcases.

Although his love of hockey began during the Panthers magical 1995-96 Year of the Rat season, the seeds of Amerigol were firmly planted when he first discovered Colombia’s infatuation with hockey, more notably inline hockey during a trip to Bogota in 2017.

Otero, the General Manager of the ACHA Div. III University of Miami hockey club, formed a relationship with the Colombian National Team as he helped organize a training camp in South Florida to help them transition their inline game to the ice before heading to Mexico for the 2017 Pan American Games. Once witnessing firsthand the passion for hockey in Latin America at those Games and the chance to spread the word, Otero began constructing his plan for the LATAM Cup, an international tournament spotlighting the talent and hockey community tucked away in Latin America.

Hosted at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Fla., the first LATAM Cup was held in 2018, with five teams and roughly 90 players competing in one division. Just one year later, the 2019 LATAM Cup’s participation soared to 21 teams, four divisions and nearly 400 players. Divisions included D1, D2, U16 and a Women’s Division while also adding teams from the Caribbean, like Jamaica, who won the 2019 D1 tournament in thrilling fashion.

“Where (the LATAM Cup) is at now, I’m completely blown away, but I’m not surprised,” said Otero. “I’m not a cocky person, but I kind of knew this had the potential to grow because of what I saw (in Colombia). Their (inline) rink is like a family hub. They have over 640 players registered for inline hockey. From the U-8s all the way to adults.”

Recently named to the NHL’s Youth Hockey Inclusion Committee, Otero aims to share his passion for the game in the League’s efforts to grow the game and provide both inspiration and inclusivity for Latinx, Hispanic and minority youths to have the opportunities to learn and play hockey.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am. The NHL has worked really hard in creating initiatives to grow the game of hockey and to change the stigma that it’s just a white person’s sport. I have a lot of ideas and this will be a great place to voice them and get feedback on them.”

While the NHL continues to broaden its diversity and inclusion approach, Otero looks to the sports community as a whole, its connection to Latin America and his hockey pilgrimage to Colombia that fuels the dedication to his mission.

“Why can’t the next NHL superstar in 15 years come from Latin America?” said Otero. “In every other sport there have been superstars that have come out of Latin America. I think that it’s important for the NHL’s growth 15 years down the line to have players with names like ‘Lopez’ and ‘Fernandez’ on the backs of jerseys to grow your fanbase.”

“It’s the same over there (in Colombia). It’s a hockey community just like it is here. They love this game as much if not more than we do. You talk to these kids and they know what happened last night in the NHL.”

In September of 2019, Colombia became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), becoming the fifth Latin American Country to join the IIHF after Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

The next LATAM Cup is set to be Amerigol’s largest endeavor yet, with a new U12 division and a tremendous increase of 35-40 teams from countries in Latin America and the Carribbean. Most interestingly, that number doesn’t even include teams from Africa and Asia who had enthusiastically extended their interest in participating.

Traditionally held in early September, the tournament has since been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when it comes to organizing the next LATAM Cup during these unprecedented times, Otero refuses to make final decisions without speaking to the teams and countries that helped make the tournament possible in the first place.

“I wouldn’t have this tournament if it wasn’t for them. It’s important everyone has a say in this event.”

A hockey dad at heart, whose son Chris captured Gold with Team Colombia in the 2019 U16 LATAM Cup Tournament, Otero is thrilled for the future of the tournament as well as the potential growth of the game he loves so dearly.

“These kids have the same (passion). Growing the game within the community. This whole tournament is a win-win-win for everybody. As this tournament continues to grow, more people become aware that people play hockey (in Latin America).”

“Seeing these kids come off the ice win or lose, they have the biggest smile on their face. To me that’s what it’s all about.”

2020 NHL Draft prospects signal new era in hockey for Germany

By Mike G. Morreale NHL.com

Stuetzle among potential first-round picks showcasing country’s commitment to player development.

Tim Stuetzle could become the highest-selected NHL Draft pick born and trained in Germany in the same year Leon Draisaitl became the first Germany-born player to lead the NHL in points. And that possibility is perhaps the strongest evidence yet that German hockey is on the rise.

Stuetzle and other prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft on Oct. 6-7 are the latest exceptionally skilled hockey players to be coming out of the country, six years after an overhaul to its development model instituted by the German Hockey Association (GHA).

NHL scouts and general managers have taken notice.

“It’s excellent to see,” Dallas Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell said. “For us scouts, a lot of times when you go into Europe, you’re strictly looking at a Sweden, Finland-type trip and now we add another country to the list, so hopefully they can keep producing.

“This year’s crop is excellent because you could have three first-rounders from Germany. Anytime you can grow the game, in any country, it’s awesome, and this year had been exceptional for Germany.”

Goran Stubb, the NHL director of European scouting, said he is glad to see hockey gaining traction in Germany.

“A young talented kid in Germany plays soccer, and if he doesn’t play soccer, he plays handball, and then comes hockey,” Stubb said. “But hockey seems to be on the rise in Germany. Their senior team went to the final in the [2018 PyeongChang Olympics] and was close to beating the Olympic Athletes from Russia (a 4-3 overtime loss in the gold medal game).

“Now we have a junior level. Dominik Bokk was drafted in the first round in 2018 (No. 25 by the St. Louis Blues) and last year it was [Moritz] Seider (No. 6 by the Detroit Red Wings). Now comes Stuetzle, [John-Jason] Peterka and [Lukas] Reichel … three guys who I think could be first-rounders.”

Stuetzle (6-foot-1, 187 pounds), a left wing playing for Adler Mannheim of Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top professional men’s league, is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters eligible for the 2020 draft, which will be held virtually.

It’s the highest ranking given by Central Scouting on its international list to a player born and trained in Germany, and experts say he could be chosen as high as No. 2. Alexis Lafreniere, a left wing from Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is widely projected to be the No. 1 pick.

“Stuetzle is definitely the best German forward prospect since Draisaitl,” said Thomas Roost, a regional scout in Switzerland and Germany for NHL Central Scouting, “and to be honest, Stuetzle is by far the faster, quicker, more mobile and more stylish skater than Draisaitl at the same age. Stuetzle creates ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ in the stands.”

Draisaitl, who was No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters in 2014 because he played for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League that season, was chosen No. 3 by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2014 NHL Draft.

“My goal is to be drafted as high as possible,” Stuetzle said. “My goal is to get chosen under the first three picks.”

German gems

The NHL Draft has been held 57 times, with five players born and trained in Germany having been selected in the first round, but never more than one in any year: forwards Draisaitl, Marco Sturm (No. 21, San Jose Sharks, 1996), Marcel Goc (No. 20, Sharks, 2001) and Bokk, and defenseman Seider. Forward Dany Heatley, the No. 1 pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2000 NHL Draft, was born in Germany but moved to Canada at a young age.

Scouts expect there could be as many as three among the top 31 picks in the 2020 draft.

In addition to Stuetzle, Peterka, a right wing for EHC Munich (DEL), and left wing Reichel of Eisbaren Berlin (DEL) are also on the scouting radar. Peterka is No. 7 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters; Reichel is No. 11.

All three represented Germany at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Draisaitl won the Art Ross Trophy this season, leading the NHL with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists). He’s also a finalist for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player.

Of defensemen born and trained in Germany, Seider became the highest selected when the Red Wings chose him No. 6 in the 2019 draft. He was NHL Central Scouting’s highest-ranking such player (No. 6 in 2019) on its International list prior to Stuetzle.

“Young guys aren’t just benchwarmers anymore (in the DEL), they’re actually part of the team and earning the coach’s trust,” Seider said. “A few rule changes have also helped out those younger German players who happen to be draft eligible.”

A change in philosophy in Germany’s development model and within the DEL has helped foster the growth of more young local players and sparked the turnaround of hockey in the country.

Changing of the guard

The overhaul to the development model instituted by the GHA in 2014 went a long way in helping teenage players realize their full potential.

GHA president and IIHF council member Franz Reindl said he felt radical changes were necessary after Germany failed to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and dropped to No. 13 in the IIHF world rankings.

“Youth work and what the clubs are doing with their junior teams was essential for young players to grow,” said Germany-born goalie Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche, who was selected by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round (No. 112) of the 2010 NHL Draft. “I can’t tell a detail [as to] what makes a guy become an NHL player. It was a team effort.”

Reindl helped institute a long-term sports concept called Powerplay 26 to help change the hockey landscape in Germany for the better.

“We introduced a completely new development system, changed competition rules and league structures in youth hockey, and we changed our coaching education system,” GHA manager Michael Pfuhl said. “We really had to make some fundamental changes.”

The changes were made with three primary goals:

1. Short term: Concentration on sports activities and an increase in grassroots programs to allow more young players on the ice while increasing efficiency within the youth development levels.

2. Midterm: Rebuilding of the federation structure and financial consolidation by taking a lead role in the German sports system.

3. Long term: Realizing the opportunity to win medals in the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics and 2030 Olympics.

To achieve these goals, the association realigned its coaching education program to focus more on player development than on wins and losses.

The DEL also introduced an under-23 rule prior to the 2019-20 season that enabled each of the 14 clubs to add two skaters per game (19 total) so long as those players are under the age of 23 prior to Dec. 31. The two players must be eligible to play for the German national team, meaning they had to be Germany-trained skaters and not imports.

“The rule provides extra spots for young German-trained players on the DEL rosters and therefore is helpful for the development of younger players, such as Seider, Stuetzle, Peterka and Reichel,” Pfuhl said.

The adjustment was made to ensure young Germany-born players were given a chance to showcase their ability in their own country and continue to develop in the country’s top division.

“I know the country has been working on ways to get more young players in their league instead of older guys from other countries taking up lots of ice time, and that looks like it’s paying off this and last season, for sure,” Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson said. “I think if young hockey players see that there’s a chance to play on the big senior team, that’s a big boost for many of them and could maybe even be a boost to get more young hockey players starting in Germany.”

A five-star system was also assigned to the Germany youth hockey programs. One star is awarded to a youth club team each time it fulfills certain criteria in each of the five difference categories, according to Pfuhl. The more stars a team earns, the more financial support it is given from a special development fund.

The categories include recruitment and learn-to-play, basic skills development, competitive hockey for under-16 teams, competitive hockey for under-20 teams, and hockey environment.

The new development model has given even more reason for young local players to grow and mature within the German leagues up through their draft-eligible season.

“German hockey has made big changes in the last couple of years and more young players are in our top league, which wasn’t the case back in the day,” Seider said. “We’re already seeing the big achievements, winning the silver medal at the 2018 [PyeongChang] Olympics and the promotion of the Under-20 team to the [2020 World Junior Championship].”

Germany has improved its IIHF world hockey ranking each year since 2014 and is No. 7.

“We now have more skilled players thanks to the new programs,” Pfuhl said. “We have more highly educated, full-time coaches working daily with the young talents. Guys like Uwe Krupp, Jochen Hecht, Marco Sturm and Leon Draisaitl are role models for more young players. They see the chance to make it into the NHL if they work hard. Though hockey is not the No. 1 sport in Germany, Leon is pretty popular because of his scoring records in the NHL.”

Calgary Flames forward Tobias Rieder, who was born and trained in Germany before being selected by the Oilers in the fourth round (No. 114) of the 2011 NHL Draft, said, “There are so many people involved. It also helped when (current Los Angeles Kings assistant coach) Marco Sturm took over as national coach (in 2015). You could feel that it was getting better and running in the right direction. It’s good to see that more and more players are coming over to North America and [making] it over here. It’s all on the right track.”

Stuetzle said having the opportunity to mature and develop in his country made all the difference in the world.

“Playing with men and training with men all the time was a big part of my life and they helped me out a lot,” the 18-year-old said. “They wanted to make me better and I’m so thankful to my teammates. I was able to learn a lot from the veterans; it was a great season for me.”

Bokk said giving young Germany-born players an opportunity to compete in the DEL makes a huge difference.

“If you’re young and you play on the pro team and you’re playing against men, that’s probably the best that can happen for you,” said the 20-year-old forward prospect, now in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. “It’s pro hockey. It’s a different world than playing junior hockey in Germany. I didn’t get that chance and went to Sweden, played a couple of months and then got an opportunity to play on the pro team there. That helped so much as a player.

“Germany right now is doing a great job playing their young guys and we have a lot of great young players who can play in the DEL, and I think that’s what makes German hockey much better.”

The Mannheim machine

Jan-Axel Alavaara became general manager of Adler Mannheim in 2017-18. Mannheim won a DEL championship with Seider last season and had a 34-12-6 record with Stuetzle before this season was canceled because of the coronavirus.

Alavaara was an amateur scout with the Buffalo Sabres (2016-18) for two seasons before getting his opportunity with Mannheim, so he knows the caliber of player NHL clubs crave.

“Seider opened up the doors last season, for sure,” Alavaara said. “Now, it’s Stuetzle and the other guys showing that they’re able to play, and people in this country want to see the young kids who play with a passion and a drive and who are not afraid to play hockey.”

Mannheim coach Pavel Goss has been with the team the past two seasons. He told The Dispatch podcast that it wouldn’t surprise him to see Stuetzle in the NHL within two years.

“I think his hockey IQ and his quickness are impressive,” Goss said. “How quick he can beat the defensemen, accelerate and create the chances for his teammates. He can improve his quick shot, but he’s only 18 and there’s a lot of potential in Tim. He’s going to be a great player.”

Seider was named rookie of the year in the DEL in 2018-19 despite being limited to 29 games because of a shoulder injury. He had five assists in 14 playoff games to help Mannheim win the DEL championship.

“For a lot of young players like myself, Seider was the go-to guy,” Stuetzle said. “He showed everybody that you can develop a lot even if you stay in Germany.”

Seider had six assists in seven games for Germany in the 2020 World Junior Championship and didn’t look out of place his first season in North America with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, scoring 22 points (two goals, 20 assists) in 49 games.

“I was really high on [Seider] prior to the 2019 draft,” Andersson said. “I liked his hands, skating, poise and size, but a big thing also was his personality. He’s a human being that is above your average player … he’s caring, outgoing and confident.”

Stuetzle was named rookie of the year in the DEL this season after scoring 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 41 games. He also finished second in scoring among players 18 or younger with five points (two goals, three assists) in eight games for Mannheim in the Champions Hockey League, a 32-team European hockey tournament that ended in February.

“The way our organization operates, it’s almost similar to if you saw how Sweden or Finland build their teams,” Alavaara said. “We have a full staff that includes skill coaches, off-ice coaches, performance coaches. They all take care of these young kids, work with them on a daily basis from video to mental toughness.

“I think Germany was behind everyone else maybe five to 10 years ago, but there are a lot of Canadians, Swedes, Finns, Czechs, and coaches from other countries outside Germany now working in the DEL, so we’re making all the right steps.”

Alavaara said the GHA has taken a little bit from every country in helping shape and develop the young players back home.

“I think coaches and managers are starting to talk way more with each other to help each other, too,” Alavaara said. “To me, it seemed the teams were smaller and on their own island before, but that’s not the case anymore. Everyone is working together to make sure our players have everything available to them.”

The next one: Stuetzle

Stuetzle is quick to deflect any comparisons to Draisaitl.

“I think it’s great [to hear the comparisons], but I’m another player, another guy,” Stuetzle said. “I want to be my own, but it’s a very big honor and nice to be considered in that category.”

Draisaitl had six points (two goals, four assists) in 37 games for the Oilers in 2014-15 before being returned to the WHL.

“I think every player is a little bit different,” Draisaitl said. “[Stuetzle] might come in and be ready, play big minutes and be ready to make an impact and contribute to that team. In my case, that wasn’t really the case. I don’t think I was ready at the time. But those … games still helped me so much. It taught me so much about how to play the game the right way, how the game is being played in the NHL.”

Roost said Stuetzle and Draisaitl are different types of players.

“Draisaitl is stronger on the puck, in the corners and along the walls, while Stuetzle is speed, finesse and creating options in the offensive zone,” Roost said. “Draisaitl is sometimes like a freight train. Nothing can stop him. Stuetzle is more like a sports car. Stylish but probably a bit more vulnerable.”

Stuetzle had 132 shots on goal and a plus-4 rating averaging 16:06 in ice time in 41 games with Mannheim this season. His averages of 0.65 assists per game and 0.82 points per game are the highest by an under-18 player in the history of the DEL.

Alavaara said he was lucky to be able to watch Stuetzle every day in practice.

“He has all the tools, just as Seider had, but at a different position,” Alavaara said. “He has elite quickness and hockey sense to make those quick decisions. He’ll do everything it will take to get to the next level as soon as possible because he has good character, competes really hard and can skate so well.”

In addition to Stuetzle, Peterka and Reichel might also be among the top 31 picks.

“The most impressive things about Peterka and Reichel was their development during this season,” Roost said. “At the beginning, I ranked Peterka in the middle of the draft and Reichel as a late-rounder, to be honest.

“Now it looks as if both of them could become late-first or early-second-round picks if everything moves in their directions during the draft.”

Peterka (5-11, 192) scored 11 points (seven goals, four assists) and had 62 shots on goal averaging 11:50 in ice time in 42 games for Munich (DEL). He scored six points (four goals, two assists) in seven games for Germany at the 2020 World Championship.

Reichel (6-foot, 170) scored 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) and had 70 shots on goal averaging 12:58 in ice time in 42 games for Berlin (DEL). The nephew of former NHL forward Robert Reichel scored five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games for his country at the 2020 World Championship.

“I know J-J Peterka from Munich, where I joined for summer training last year,” said Buffalo Sabres forward Dominik Kahun, who was born in the Czech Republic but was raised and trained in Germany. “You can see what he can do. He is a top performer that plays well. The German hockey in the NHL is improving. Especially with Leon playing how he did, that’s great advertising for German ice hockey. The Germans are making an impact. Earlier there were not so many Germans in the NHL, so nobody talked about German ice hockey that much. But I think that we’re on the right track.”

Craig Button, resident director of scouting and NHL analyst for TSN and a former NHL general manager, said it’s great to see a soccer-loving country such as Germany producing so many productive hockey players.

“Tim Stuetzle, in my view, is an elite player in every sense of the word,” Button said. “But now you add Reichel and Peterka, Seider being drafted last year and Draisaitl’s a 50-goal scorer … I think you try to grow the sport to gain traction for other kids to take up the sport. I think it can be analogous to what we see in the southern United States.

“If (Toronto Maple Leafs center) Auston Matthews doesn’t pick up hockey in Scottsdale, Arizona, we’re robbed of Auston Matthews. We’re seeing more nontraditional markets producing players, and we can look at Germany. I think it speaks to the reach of hockey. You get good athletes playing and [creating] interest, you’re going to get good hockey players, and I think that’s wonderful.”

Stuetzle said he is hoping lessons learned leading up to his NHL Draft-eligible season will benefit him as they have other Germany-born players.

“I think we have great young players who want to work out, get better every day, be the best, and I think that’s the reason Germany is producing good players right now,” Stuetzle said. “It would be a great feeling to be drafted as high as possible. Leon is doing a great job [in the NHL].

“I’m just honored to play such a big role in the draft and looking forward to it and playing in the NHL.”

Edmonton to host 2021 world junior hockey championship with no fans

Team Canada players reach for the trophy after defeating Russia 4-3 in the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championships, Sunday, January 5, 2020 in Ostrava, Czech Republic

By The Canadian Press

Edmonton will host another major hockey event with no fans after the International Ice Hockey Federation confirmed Rogers Place will be the site of the 2021 world junior championship on Thursday.

The IIHF Council approved the Hockey Canada plan, which sees one of two planned cities for the 2021 event maintain hosting duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event originally was scheduled to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., from Dec. 26, 2020 to Jan. 5, 2021.

Organizers now say the event will return to those two cities — with the hope of having fans — in 2022.

No tournament dates have been confirmed for the revamped 2021 event.

Rogers Place currently is hosting the final two rounds of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Edmonton and Toronto served as co-hosts for the entire NHL post-season.

“This is a tough decision to have to take, but ultimately we did not have a choice,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement.

“The health and safety of players, officials, and fans is our top priority. We were impressed with the presentation from the local organizing committee outlining how a potential bubble scenario would operate within Edmonton, and we are confident that we can follow the NHL’s great example in creating a safe environment for teams to compete.”

Hockey Canada approved of the decision to keep the event in Alberta for two years.

“These are extraordinary times, and we understand the world juniors will look different this year while being played in one venue with additional safety precautions,” Hockey Canada president Tom Renney said in a statement.

Gothenburg, Sweden, which was slated to host the event in 2022, will now do so in 2024.

Novosibirsk, Russia, will host the 2023 event.

The IIHF says keeping the event in Canada, where the tournament traditionally has much higher attendance, in 2022 can help cover financial losses expected to occur in 2021.

“This solution will allow for the IIHF together with Hockey Canada to reduce the overall costs associated with putting on the 2021 tournament in a bubble environment,” Fasel said.

“We asked a lot of our Swedish partners to make this adjustment in a short amount of time, but we needed their co-operation to save this tournament and make it possible for the world juniors to be delivered this year.”

Organizers of the 2021 event say a competition bubble will isolate teams and tournament officials within the same Edmonton Ice District being used for the NHL.

The IIHF says there will be no promotion or relegation following the 2021 tournament.

The IIHF Council has voted today to initiate a series of tournament cancellations for all lower division tournaments in the men’s U20 category. The 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship will also be cancelled together with all other tournaments in the women’s U18 category. 

Canada won the 2020 event in the Czech Republic.

Discussions on 2021 World Championship to headline IIHF Council meeting

Inside the Games

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is set to discuss concerns surrounding Belarus and Latvia co-hosting the 2021 Men’s World Championship during its latest Council meeting tomorrow.

Next year’s World Championship is likely to be the main item on the agenda at the Council meeting, which will be held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Belarus co-hosting the IIHF’s flagship tournament outside of the Winter Olympic Games has been thrown into doubt amid widespread protests in the country following the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as President last month.

Latvia has called on the IIHF to find another co-host for the event and has threatened to withdraw if the worldwide governing body fails to do so.

Newly-appointed Belarusian Ice Hockey Association President Dmitri Baskov has claimed the nation can still jointly stage the competition and claimed there is no reason for the IIHF to strip the country of its hosting rights.

Belarus has also suggested it could host the 2021 World Championship alone if Latvia follows through with its threat to pull out.

Belarus co-hosting the 2021 IIHF World Championship has been thrown into doubt amid protests in the country

The topic is on the agenda for the IIHF Council meeting after the Latvian Government wrote an official letter to the organisation calling for Belarus to be removed as a co-host.

A final decision on the tournament is not expected to be made tomorrow, with IIHF President René Fasel recently claiming it was “too early” to make conclusions on the tournament.

Belarus is due to stage matches in 2021 at Minsk Arena, alongside co-hosts Latvia, which plans to use Arena Riga.

Both the semi-finals and the medal matches are set to be held in Minsk.

IIHF Council member and Russian Hockey Federation President Vladislav Tretiak said the worldwide body was committed to staging its events over the coming season after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of all World Championships in 2020.

Tretiak told Russia’s official state news agency TASS the IIHF was looking at the National Hockey League (NHL), which has resumed its season, as an example of how its competitions can be held.

“Firstly, we are constantly monitoring the situation that exists in the world now,” he said. 

“Secondly, we have an example in the form of how the National Hockey League is currently holding the Stanley Cup, it is expensive and the NHL has invested a lot of money there. 

“But the International Federation is definitely planning to hold the youth, women’s and men’s world championships, with or without spectators – time will tell.”

IIHF decision looming on world juniors

By The Canadian Press

A decision has yet to be made on whether the 2021 world junior men’s hockey championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., will be played with or without fans.

The International Ice Hockey Federation’s council will meet later this month to review the status of all tournaments in 2020-21, according to an IIHF spokesman.

Council will hear recommendations and updates from the IIHF’s COVID-19 expert group and host cities.

The 2020 men’s world hockey championship in Lausanne and Zurich, Switzerland scheduled for May, the women’s championship in Halifax in March and the men’s world under-18 championship in Michigan in April were all cancelled because of the pandemic.

The 10-country world junior tournament scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 at Rogers Place in Edmonton and Westerner Park in Red Deer features the top under-20 players in the world.

“At present time, there has been no change to the traditional hosting model for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer,” Hockey Canada said Tuesday in a statement.

“Hockey Canada continues to engage in daily communication with the IIHF, the host communities of Edmonton and Red Deer, and the appropriate health authorities to examine all options for hosting the world junior championship in December and January.

“The health and safety of all participants and the community at large remains a priority for Hockey Canada, and our organization will continue to work towards hosting a safe, successful event on behalf of the IIHF.”

Edmonton and Toronto are currently hub cities for NHL playoffs. That league intends to complete the 2019-20 season interrupted for four months by the pandemic.

Players, coaches and team staff are walled off from the general public in hotels and arenas. Edmonton will host the Stanley Cup final.

No one in the “secure zones” have tested positive for the virus so far, according to the NHL.

“Given the current COVID-19 situation within Canada, together with the bubble measures that have been implemented very successfully by the NHL so far in Edmonton and Toronto, there could be discussions surrounding the feasibility of holding the world juniors in a similar environment,” the IIHF’s Adam Steiss told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.

“The health and safety of players, coaches, officials, arena staff, and fans remains a top priority.”

Maxim Viktorov: “In Croatia in the 90s I received more money”

By Vitaly Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The head coach of the Night Hockey League club “Yadreny Vozhd” Maxim Viktorov in an exclusive interview with our website spoke about life in Croatia and local hockey in the 90s.

Why Croatia?

I left in the mid-90s for Croatia to play for Medvescak by invitation. I left, it seems, in the 96-97 season after the games for SAK Moscow.

I played three seasons at Medvescak, and in the second to the third season I was allowed to play for the national team.

The move to Croatia was due to the invitation of the “Sab-Spartak Moscow-2” coach Yuri Nikolaevich Novikov, a well-known coach both in Russia and in the world. Before joining SAK, I played on that team. At that time, he was invited to work as a head coach at Medvescak and he invited me as one of the leading players of the team. Actually, I agreed. Then in Russia everything was not so simple with hockey and with life. I approximately remember the low level of salaries then, and traveling abroad was generally considered a miracle. Therefore, it was interesting to go and try to play there. Arriving there, I met other hockey players from Russia whom I did not know. They were mostly veterans, but there were also younger hockey players. As for the Croatian national team, it seems that only Gennadi Gorbachev was there before me. If so, then it turns out that I am the second Russian in the history to play for the Croatian national team.

Gennadi Gorbachev took part in the world championships for the Croatian national team in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Gorbachev was the top scorer of the tournament in 1996.

I spent three years in Croatia, played at the World Championships and left for Russia, but I didn’t gain a foothold anywhere. I had to pause a little. Then I began to play for the Sokol Novocheboksarsk.  I went to my last world championships. In the same season and then returned to Medvescak for half a season, and did not go to play for the national team four a fourth World Championships. The injuries began, so I decided to end my career. Recently I have been receiving invitations to work as a trainer in Croatia, but now I have other tasks related to the project in Moscow.

Maxim Viktorov head coach of the Night Hockey League club Yadreny Vozhd

What is Croatian ice hockey in the 90s?

Croatian ice hockey has not changed in the 90s, 2000s and 2020. I regularly follow hockey in the country, I know the situation from the inside, because I have good relations with the sports director of one of the clubs and with the president of another club team, and I regularly visit this country myself.

In the 90s there were four clubs in which both Russians and Slovaks played and a few Czechs. Then there were some restrictions on the number of foreign players on the teams. I, Gorbachev and a Slovak were on Medvescak. Naturally, there were also local players. The best Croatian hockey players were gathered in “Medvescak”, since the club has its own winning history, every season there was a task to win. It is important to understand that there it is amateur hockey by our standards. I knew that if I wanted to continue to play at a good level, I had to constantly train. So I did it on my own time, kept myself in shape. We played in international league, there it was a joint league with Slovenia and Hungarian clubs. There were many tournaments, as Hungary and Slovenia are nearby. International championships were normal. Sport in Croatia is generally very developed,

At that time the salaries were higher than in Russia, comfortable living, wonderful climate, kind people. In general, I found only positive impressions of Croatia.

I quickly joined the team, the team accepted me, and I began to show good results. I was offered to stay for the next season, and Yuri Nikolaevich at that time had already left for Soviet Wings. He called me to his place an ask me to play at the, Mayor’s Cup, but it didn’t work out for me and I came back to Medvescak. They were waiting for me there, everyone was happy with everything, we won, we were champions, I was the best player. and after the second season, I was told: to stay with the club for another season, They give me citizenship and was told me” I would play for the national team.” I agreed. I also had a offer from Slovenia, where Sergei Stolbun played in Jesenica. He invited me there, but I refused, as everything suited me at Medvescak, and the agreement was in terms of playing for the Croatian national team, so I stayed. And I got citizenship, got the right to play for the national team and went to the World Championships.

Croatia squad?

The games for the national team practically did not differ from the games for the club, because both in the club and on the national team, all the hope was on me, because I was a foreign, So I had to carry the whole team. Of course, my teammates helped me, because we were already had played together, so it was easier for me. At theskill  level that we had, we had enough strength to beat serious opponents. But without my 100% dedication and extra efforts it would be hard to achieve something. We did not have a goal to win the tournament, we had goals either not to be demoted to the lower division or to take a medal from the championships. I played in three tournaments – Group C in the Netherlands in 1999, Group C in China in 2000, we got promoted and finished 3rd place in 2001 we played at IB in Slovenia. I still have a medal for the 3rd place finish.

What now?

I had good relationships with both players and people from the people who ran the hockey club, and not only. I have been friends with Marin Miljak for many years, we met him when he was still a Zagreb player. We often see each other and I communicate with his parents, with his family. Marin is a wonderful person with a lot of experience. He now works at Zagreb as a coach and sports director. Last season, under his leadership, the club for the first time in many years, it seems, in 36 years, became the champions of Croatia and broke the dominance of Medvescak.

Now professional “Medvescak” does not exist, only a school and a youth team are working. In other clubs the situation is no better. In principle, it is not clear how the future seasons of both the local and foreign championships will develop, not only because of financial problems, but also because of the coronavirus.

And at the moment I work as a coach in the Moscow club of the Night Hockey League “Yadreny Vozhd”, and since this season I am also a regional representative of the NHL in Moscow.

Q & A with Dan Locmelis

By Maxim Garashchuk – National Teams of ice hockey

At the age of 15, Dans Lochmelis moved from Latvia to Sweden, where he now plays for the Luleå club system and already in the first season abroad, the 16-year-old forward managed to become the best sniper in the Sweden U16 Elite league.

How did you start playing hockey?

My father used to play hockey, and when I was two years old, he took me with him and I would skate on the ice skated. Once my dad and I went to eat at a cafe after his training, then the guys would trained on ice and I told my father that I also want to play hockey. This is how my hockey career began.

Why did you choose the forward position?

I don’t know why I chose the forward position, but I can say that I have not even tried to play other positions.

How did it happen that you moved to Sweden so early?

An agent called me and offered for me to try my hand in Sweden, where everything is high level and where the club pays for everything. I think that very few people would refuse this offer, so I went to Sweden.

Did you know Sandis Vilmanis before coming to Sweden?

Yes, I knew Sandis before going to Sweden, as we often played against each other. In the end, it turned out that the agent offered both of us to go to the same country and now we have become teammates.

What were your initial expectations from the first season in Sweden?

I really didn’t expect much. I just wanted to train and play at a high level.

Were you surprised that you managed to be one of best players and finish in the TOP-3 among scoring leaders?

Yes, I was surprised. I didn’t think that my debut season abroad would turn out this good.

Is it an achievement for you that you have already become captain of the national team for your age group?

I do not consider this an achievement, but being the captain is a great honor for me.

Rainers and Dans with Team Latvia U16

What is the difference between a captain and a regular player?

There is no big difference, but the captain, unlike an ordinary player, should be an example for the whole team.

Who do you consider the best Latvian hockey players?

Not to say that I have idols, but if I were to pick TOP 5 of the best Latvian players, it would look like this: Rudolf Balcers, Kaspars Daugavins,Theodor Blueger, Lauris Darzins and Miks Indrasis.

Was it a shame that in the end you did not manage to overtake your friend in points scored?

No, there was no such feeling. Hockey is a team sport. Basically I played with Sandis on the same line, so we helped each other score points.

You have already have been playing for Lulea U18 team this year. was it hard so abruptly to switch from one age category to another?

It was a little difficult. Faster hockey in U18, you have to make faster decisions, and this made the game more difficult and more interesting.

Are you ready to play fully in the U18 league?

Definitely, I’m ready.

Luleå plays in SHL. How soon do you think you and Sandis will debut in the top league?

I think Sandis and I can make our SHL debut, but definitely not this season.Of course, every hockey player would like to debut in adult hockey as fast as possible.

Did you follow the situation with Riga Dynamo?

Yes, and now I continue to follow the news about Riga Dynamo.

Next year, some of the games of the World ice hockey Championship should be held in Riga. Is this an important event for Latvia?

I think yes. This will be a great opportunity to see the NHL players and other top leagues. Latvia has the best fans, I think they can help national team in the fight for the title.

Did you manage to learn the language during your time in Sweden?

Now I know a little Swedish. I think that this was the hard part learning a new language for me when moving from Latvia to Sweden.

What was your most memorable moment in the 2019/20 season?

It was the moment when we reached the quarter finals. It’s a pity that due to COVID-19 we were unable continue the season. We had a good chance of winning it all.

What are your goals for the next season?

First of all, I would like to win the championship with Lulea U18 and then I would like to play for the U20 team.

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