The Canadian-born Kreis has spent most of his adult life in German hockey

By Chuck Penfold –

The German Ice Hockey Association (DEB) confirmed on Monday what had been widely expected since late last week, appointing Harold Kreis, 64, as the man to lead Germany into the upcoming World Championship and beyond. Kreis, who is currently coach of the Schwenniger Wild Wings of the Germany’s top league, the DEL, will step into the role at the end of current domestic season. 

He replaces Toni Söderholm, who surprisingly stepped down in the autumn to take over as head coach with top Swiss National League outfit SC Bern. Kreis’s contract runs through the next Winter Olympic Games and the 2026 World Championship. Alexander Sulzer, a former NHL defenseman, who had spells at the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators, will be his assistant. 

DEB President Peter Merten said the association’s board believed that the coaching team of Kreis and Sulzer were capable of “permanently establishing the men’s national team among the world’s top eight (ice hockey) nations.”

Aiming to build on recent progress

“I have experienced a lot in my career, but now to work as a national coach is something very special, it’s a great honor for me,” Kreis said, before acknowledging the work of his predecessors, Söderholm and Marco Sturm, who led Germany to an unprecedented silver medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“The development of the team has been extremely positive in recent years. The team has progressed in terms of attitude, conviction and self-confidence. This started under Marco and continued under Toni. It’s my aim to ensure that this continues under Alex and myself,” Kreis said. 

“The days when you (Germany) would go into a game against Sweden or Canada and think ‘let’s just try to keep the score down’ — those days are over.”  

Vast coaching experience

The Winnipeg, Canada, native never played professionally in North America, instead turning pro at the age of 19 with top German club the Mannheim Eagles, where he spent 18 seasons, culminating in the retirement of his No. 3 jersey. He represented West Germany 180 times, including at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics.   

Kreis went into coaching shortly after hanging up his skates in 1997, starting out as an assistant before going on to become a head coach in both Germany and Switzerland. His two greatest successes were winning Swiss titles with Lugano and ZSC Lions Zurich. 

Kreis is also no stranger to being behind the bench with the national team, having worked as an assistant coach at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 World Championships. 

His first major test as national team coach is set to come at the World Championships to be hosted by Finland and Latvia from May 12 to 28.