Category: Europe (page 1 of 11)

2020 NHL Draft prospects signal new era in hockey for Germany

By Mike G. Morreale

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.”

Tim Stuetzle Leads German Hockey’s Next N.H.L. Influx

Tim Stuetzle, left, has been ranked as the top European skater by N.H.L. Central Scouting

By The New York Times

With his strong skating and sharp stickhandling skills, Tim Stuetzle, an 18-year-old German forward, has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane.

“Tim has this incredible imagination when he’s on the ice,” said Craig Button, the director of scouting for the Canadian sports network TSN. “Great creativity, and he combines it with this, kind of, boldness.

“He doesn’t just play with a great determination and great skill level, he plays with this panache. It says, ‘Stop me, I dare you.’ Not a lot of players have that.”

Stuetzle earned rookie of the year honors in the top German men’s league last season, playing on the top line for Adler Mannheim. One of his linemates and mentors was the former N.H.L. player Ben Smith, who won a Stanley Cup alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

“So many guys from my team always said Patrick Kane to me, so that’s been a lot of fun for me,” Stuetzle said. “For me, it’s always tough to compare because I think others should make an opinion on that. But for sure, it’s a big honor for me.

“I still think I’m very far away from him and there’s a lot of things that I need to improve to get on his level. I still have a lot of time because I’m very young.”

Stuetzle has been ranked as the top European skater by N.H.L. Central Scouting. And he could surpass Leon Draisaitl, whom the Edmonton Oilers selected third over all in 2014, as the highest-drafted German-developed player in league history.

“I think it would be unreal for German hockey if you have that kind of first-rounder,” Stuetzle said. “But in the end, what’s most important for me is to play a long career and win something. I’m there to win and I hope to have a long career and a healthy career. That’s the most important for me, but, for sure, right now I’m hoping to get drafted as high as possible and, yeah, maybe higher, or the same, as Leon.”

Before Draisaitl’s selection, only two other German players had ever been drafted in the first round. Marco Sturm, now an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, went 21st over all in 1996. Forward Marcel Goc was selected 20th in 2001. Dany Heatley, a forward selected second over all in 2000, was born in Germany but grew up in Canada and represented it in international competition. All told, only six German-born skaters and two goalies suited up in the N.H.L. last season. But those numbers are expected to grow quickly, with Stuetzle at the fore.

Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus top prospect for the 2020 N.H.L. draft, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10. But Stuetzle has been placed second on a number of expert rankings, including Button’s.

“I really do believe that he is one of the very few players in his draft that’s capable of coming into the N.H.L., if there’s a 2020-21 season, coming in and being a contributor,” Button said. “Not a player that dons a uniform, but a contributor to the team that drafts him. I think he’s that good.”

Stuetzle should be an easy fit on most N.H.L. rosters, as he can play all three forward positions.

“I have no problem with each position, but I think I can be a very, very good centerman if I get stronger in a couple of years, because I love having the puck in the middle and making plays,” he said. “I plan, long term, on the center position. But last season went very good on the wing as well.”

Marco Sturm, middle, was drafted in the first round in 1996 and coached his native Germany to a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics

Germany’s hockey program has been on the rise in recent years. Most notably: With no active N.H.L. players permitted to participate at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sturm coached the German team to an unexpected silver medal. And Draisaitl followed his first 50-goal season in 2018-19 by capturing the Art Ross Trophy as the N.H.L.’s leading points scorer in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 regular season. With 110 points in 71 games, he finished 13 points ahead of his closest challenger, his teammate Connor McDavid.

In the last two years, two more Germans have been drafted in the first round. Forward Dominik Bokk was chosen 25th by the St. Louis Blues in 2018, and the Detroit Red Wings took defenseman Moritz Seider at No. 6 in 2019.

This year, more than one German could be selected in the first round for the first time. Wingers John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel are ranked seventh and 11th on N.H.L. Central Scouting’s European skater list. Button ranks Reichel as the 33rd-best overall prospect and Peterka 42nd.

“J.J. is probably what I would call a little bit more of a two-way player,” Button said. “Coaches will be comfortable with him being out on the ice because he is so smart. And Lukas is, I think, a little bit more tilted toward being a playmaking-type forward rather than a goal-scoring winger, but it’s an area that he can develop.

“When you’re talking about potential first-round picks, I think Tim, obviously. But J.J. and Lukas certainly can be.”

Germany’s rise in hockey has come partly with the help of a program called Powerplay 26.

After a lifetime in hockey, including winning a bronze medal as a player at the 1976 Winter Olympics, Franz Reindl took over as the German Ice Hockey Federation’s president in 2014 and helped create the program. Powerplay 26 is a comprehensive plan for improvement at all levels, bringing more youth players to the game and supporting them more effectively, with a goal of consistently competing for medals at all levels by 2026.

Since Powerplay 26 began in 2014, the German senior men’s team has climbed from 13th to seventh in the world rankings. The under-20 team earned promotion to the top level in December 2018, and the under-18 squad followed suit four months later. Over the same time, the women’s program slipped slightly, from seventh to eighth.

“Our level is Switzerland, Slovakia,” Reindl said. “The big nations, they are ahead of us. Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czechs and U.S.A. are the top six. But to be seven — it’s amazing in these last years, going from 13 to seven in the international world. But now it’s even harder to stay there, and to maybe make the next step.”

Sustaining that success, said Stefan Schaidnagel, sporting director for the German federation, is a matter of consistently having positive results.

The Italian national team summer camp in Egna concluded

By Italian Ice Hockey Association
Translated By George Da Silva National teams of ice Hockey

A week of intense work, with many sessions on the ice and off the ice, for the 44 Italian  players who participated in the first real seasonal meeting of the senior men’s national ice hockey team . After the physical tests were carried out in July at the CONI Olympic Preparation Center in Formia, Italy, coach Greg Ireland  meet the players in Egna, Italy to kick off the 2020-2021 “campaign” which will end with the World Championships in Riga, Latvia (May 21 – June 6). The camp, which began on Sunday August 16th, ended this morning with a last match between white and blue Italy before breaking ranks. The next time Italy will meet, should be in early November with the 1st stage of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge scheduled in Hungary, where Italy will challenge the hosts, Poland and South Korea.

Forward Alex Petan did not take part  and his place was taken by the two young players forward Luca Biondi , who played last year with Fassa, and Marco Sanna , of Cortina . The very young Carlo Muraro was added to the group of goalkeepers, born in Asiago in 2002.

Greg Ireland was very satisfied with the progress of the players, which took place between Bolzano and Egna Italy, the head coach of the national team, Greg Ireland said  “Many were surprised by the large number of players – explains Ireland – but in this way I had the opportunity to see and get to know as many players as possible, and get an idea of ​​the group I want to form. Without forgetting that, in North America, these numbers of players are quite normal when it comes to early season training camps . The responses I got were really positive from all the guys, and we were able to work on many important aspects of the game and system that I want to give to the national team. We have tackled all kinds of situations, from power-play to 3on 3, and thanks to every in-depth coaching staff we were also able to carry out single exercises to improve individual techniques “

Peter Spornberger and Marco Insam tangle in front of goaltender Jake Smith during the intr squad game

Among the novelties of this training-camp a yoga session was implemented, a discipline difficult to associate with ice hockey, but considered to be great importance for improving athleticism, coordination and balance of the players. “The first days of camp were quite difficult because most of the lads arrived from 5 to 6 months of inactivity – said assistant coach Giorgio De Bettin , but slowly everyone had raised their level, and in the last training sessions and matches, we have seen really good things “. De Bettin himself, starting from this evening, will be in Aosta , where he will lead the under 20 national team that will carry out its training camp together with the under 18 national team.

Goalies: Andreas Bernard, Carlo Muraro, Jake Smith, Justin Fazio, Gianluca Vallini

Defensemen: Tobias Brighenti, Gregorio Gios, Daniel Glira, Roland Hofer, Thomas Larkin, Gianluca March, Stefano Marchetti, Marco Marzolini, Jan Pavlu, Chad Pietroniro, Phil Pietroniro, Peter Spörnberger, Ivan Tauferer, Alex Trivellato

Forwards: Domenico Alberga, Raphael Andergassen, Simon Berger, Luca Biondi, Martin Castlunger, Dan Catenacci, Davide Conci, Ivan Deluca, Daniel Frank, Alex Frei, Luca Frigo, Markus Gander, Peter Hochkofler, Marco Insam, Diego Kostner, Alex Lambacher, Marco Magnabosco, Michele Marchetti, Matthias Mantinger, Angelo Miceli, Simon Pitschieler, Joachim Ramoser, Marco Sanna, Michael Sullmann, Tommaso Traversa

Coaching staff: Greg Ireland, Riku-Petteri Lehtonen, Giorgio De Bettin, Diego Scandella, Fabio Armani, Gianluca Canei

From Chelmsford to Maine – GB forward eligible for 2020 NHL Entry Draft

18-year-old Mason Alderson-Biddulph is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

By UK Hockey Fan

The door has been pushed ajar for young UK hockey players dreaming of playing in the NHL.

Liam Kirk was scouted in Sheffield, selected by the Arizona Coyotes 189th overall in the 2018 NHL draft and has impressed in the Ontario Hockey League since the Peterborough Petes opted to take a gamble on him in the import draft in that same year

That doesn’t mean life is ultimately easier for promising hockey players this side of the ocean. There are many different avenues and no path is without it’s pitfalls.

Listed at 6’3 and 194 pounds, 18-year-old Mason Alderson-Biddulph is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The London native played junior hockey in Chelmsford and Guildford before opting to take the step of playing overseas to continue his development – a route now trod by many starting in the UK.

The USA has been Alderson-Biddulph’s hockey home for the past two seasons.
A stop in North Andover, Massachusetts was first as the GB forward suited up for Islanders Hockey Club in the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC).
In his first taste of US hockey, Alderson-Biddulph recorded eight points in 31 games.

The 2019-20 campaign was spent in Maine as Alderson-Biddulph finished 4th in team scoring for Berwick Academy. At the USHS-Prep level, the only European on the roster registered thirty points in 23 outings of which twelve were goals.

It’s at the junior international level where the GB forward has been making waves and had many wondering if he could follow in the footsteps of Liam Kirk.

At the U20, D2A level, Alderson-Biddulph has accrued fourteen points (4-10-14) in ten games, helping GB win a Silver and a Bronze medal.

Previously, Alderson-Biddulph played at the lower age group with the U18’s and recorded duplicate statistics, although, of his fourteen points at that age-group, it’s impressive that nine were goals.
The young man also captained GB U18’s but unfortunately suffered racist abuse that many black people in sport sadly still have to endure.

The despicable event occurred during the 2019, Division 1 Group B World Championships hosted in Székesfehérvár, Hungary.

In the last two minutes of a game against Italy, Great Britain’s under-18 ice hockey captain said he was called a ‘n****r’ and added: “I was absolutely shell-shocked and completely disgusted.”
“He screamed it at the top of his lungs and I just couldn’t believe it. The fans heard it, everyone heard it.”

The player who shouted the abuse apologized to the GB Captain in person afterwards, along with the team captain, coach and the chairman of the IIHF, but this wasn’t enough for Alderson-Biddulph – “The damage has been done. He was man enough to step up and say sorry but what he said is disgusting.”

Nobody could ever be fully prepared for that kind of abuse while representing their country.
But with his father, Brian Biddulph, being the first black player to represent Great Britain at ice hockey, Mason was likely aware of the possibility of it occurring and the young man certainly handled himself with credit in the situation.

Brian Biddulph played professionally in the UK but also had a stint in North America, spending the 1986-87 season playing for the Langley Eagles in the British Columbia Hockey League.
No doubt providing some inspiration for his son to follow that path but also some much-needed advice at this crucial time.

As per a NY Times feature about Liam Kirk, Mason is quoted as saying the following during his time in Massachusetts:

“It’s fun being a big fish in a small pond [in England], but you really don’t know how good you are until you jump into the sea.”
“I just wanted to see how I’d fare against the kids that play every day in and out like the same way a British kid would play” soccer.

“The routes were to either go major junior or have four years of schooling that could possibly be paid for and then I could have a degree at the end of it, a sustained life and a good job.”

It was also noted in the said article that ‘an 11th grader at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, Mass., Alderson-Biddulph has had discussions with the likes of Colgate, Princeton and St. Lawrence.’

The chances of Mason Alderson-Biddulph being selected in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft are slim. He’s not featured in any of the major scouting lists and there has been no chatter around his name on social media.

That’s not to say he couldn’t be a late bloomer.
If he does indeed end up playing in the NCAA (which is highly scouted), then anything is possible as we have seen on many occasions.

The sport of Ice Hockey lacks a sports facility for more popularity”

The association was founded in 1998 in Schellenberg

Source: Liechtensteiner Vaterland

The sport of ice hockey receives little attention in Liechtenstein but has great interest in the small municipality of Schellenberg of all places. The EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg ice hockey team now wants to make ice hockey more popular across the country.

It is considered the fastest team sport in the world: ice hockey. While football dominates here, ice hockey is popular in the Nordic countries. In Canada, ice hockey is even considered a national sport. In Germany, Austria or Switzerland, the game on ice is still in second place. However, this does not apply to Liechtenstein.

Twelve students found the HC Schellenberg

Although the beginning of ice hockey in Liechtenstein is not in Schellenberg, ice hockey would not be what it is today without Schellenberg. The EHC Vaduz was founded in 1996 and took part in the championship for the first time the following year. In 1998, 12 young students from Schellenberg decided to also practice this sport. At that time I was a teacher in Schellenberg and played some ice hockey. A group of boys asked me if we could make an ice hockey team, ”says Christian Fuchs, President of the EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of ​​his students. Shortly afterwards they founded HC Schellenberg in 1998. “We then practiced for a year and then formed a training community with Vaduz. In the winter you played on the ice and in summer inline hockey was on the training schedule. Three years later, they teamed up with the EHC and founded the hockey association. Since only the ice hockey department merged with Vaduz, HC Schellenberg remained the place for popular inline hockey.

We lack a sports facility for the game to gain popularity

The EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg currently has around 30 Players. For a comparison: there are around 1,700 active footballers in Liechtenstein. But why is there so little interest in ice hockey? “There is certainly interest in our country,” says Fuchs. “the Sport is popular here too and is followed. Ice hockey is very important to us in the region. Especially in Graubünden In eastern Switzerland and Feldkirch in Austria, but in the Sarganserland in Switzerland  and Rhine Valley, ice hockey is not unknown. Nevertheless, there are only a few Liechtensteiners who actively play ice hockey. For Christian Fuchs it is clear why this is so. «We lack a sports facility in the country where our sport could be practiced. In addition, the financial means are also limited.  Since there is no ice rink in Liechtenstein, the EHC moves abroad.

Despite these limited resources, the EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg is successful. In the last three years we won the championship title twice in the Vorarlberg Ice Hockey League 2. Two years ago it was “only” enough for the vice championship. Nevertheless, we are not superior or even want to play in a higher league. Our sporting goals are modest. It would not make much sense to play in a league higher as it is financially impossible and we can paly well and succeed  in this league. The successes of the past few years have also been somewhat happy for us, says Fuchs.

The connection to Schellenberg is currently somewhat lacking

What does the EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg have to do with the municipality of Schellenberg? The name is still there and will definitely be retained. Even if the connection to the community is somewhat lacking, we can always count on their support, says Fuchs. You still have an active player and about four playing out side of the country who come from Schellenberg. “But who knows, maybe one day there will be an ice rink in Schellenberg, where the EHC Vaduz-Schellenberg will play their home games.” 

Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Marian Hossa during the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Slovakia

Marian Hossa is heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In his first year of eligibility, Hossa was announced on Wednesday as one of six members from the Class of 2020, along with Jarome Iginla, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre, Doug Wilson and Ken Holland (builder). He needed more than 75 percent of the votes — at least 14 from the 18-member selection committee — to be elected.

“This is an amazing day for me and my family,” Hossa said in a conference call. “I would like to congratulate all the six people with me. It’s an amazing day for everybody. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to start playing in the 1997-98 National Hockey League and I never thought I would have an amazing career.

“My dream came true when I won the first Stanley Cup. This is definitely something special to be in the top, top players and the people in [the] National Hockey League. This means so much to me. I’m humbled and really grateful.”

Drafted No. 12 overall by the Ottawa Senators in 1997, Hossa registered 1,134 points in 1,309 games across 19 seasons with five different teams and won three Stanley Cups as a member of the Blackhawks. He ranks 35th all-time in goals (525), 30th in postseason points (149) and was the 80th player in NHL history to hit the 1,000-point mark.

Despite his career being cut prematurely because of a progressive skin disorder, Hossa finished as an eight-time 30-goal scorer and three-time 40-goal scorer and was widely regarded as one of the best two-way forwards in hockey. Chicago was fortunate to witness it first-hand for eight years.

“One of those players that really set the table of playing the right way,” Joel Quenneville told NBC Sports Chicago in January. “And as a coach, you couldn’t ask for a guy that demonstrates exactly what your message is on how we want to play structurally, in all zones, all situations. Protects the puck, keeps the puck, tough to take it away from him. It was like, ‘OK, this is the perfect player.'”

Hossa’s international numbers also puts him in the conversation as one of the greatest Slovakian players ever. He racked up 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 12 games at the IIHF World Junior Championship, 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 52 games at the IIHF World Championship and 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 19 games at the Winter Olympics.

Not only is he a Hall of Fame player on the ice, but off the ice as well. Hossa is as universally respected within the hockey community as anyone, and the epitome of what it means to be a professional.

“You can’t replace Marian Hossa,” GM Stan Bowman said in October. “He was such an important part of our team. We never would’ve won any of our Stanley Cups without Marian’s contributions. He did all the things that you need a player to do to win. I’m not sure there was ever the full appreciation of what he did on a nightly basis to help our team win.”

There is now. Hossa is in the Hall and he couldn’t be more deserving of the honor.

The super Vauclair bros, it’s the end of an era!

Tristan Vauclair, Julien Vauclair

By Damiano Cansani – Leading Sport

Together, they collected over 2’000 National League appearances. We’re talking about the three “Super Vauclair Bros”: in alphabetical order Geoffrey, Julien and Tristan. Three Jurassiens that all played youth hockey for HC Ajoie.

When it comes to young talents it is often said that one in a thousand makes it. In this case, as many as three brothers made it, to a greater or lesser extent, in the top tier of Swiss hockey. That’s a fantastic story. One of them, Julien, was even able to collect an NHL appearances with the Ottawa Senators and, frankly speaking, if he had been born fifteen or so years later, we are certain that there would have been many more appearances in the world’s most prestigious league.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, in a very ungenerous way because of the emergency-situation, the last two brothers that were still playing in the National League – Julien and Tristan – hung up their skates.

What can we say? All the three of them deserve a big round of applause, it’s as simple as that.

They never played at the same time in the same National League team and perhaps this is the only “regret” for these three “Super Bros”. In any case, they have tied their names to three teams in particular. Ajoie, their youth teams, Lugano and Fribourg Gottéron.

Geoffrey, who is today 43 years old, was the first one who hung up his skates at the end of the 2013-14 season. He made his National League debut with Lugano during the 1997-98 season and then played also for Fribourg Gottéron, Olten (1 appearance), Franches-Montagnes and Ajoie where he spent the last 4 years of his career. He was a very talented forward that did good things and that maybe, with all due respect, considering the potential he could also do more. He won the title with Lugano in 1999 when he even scored a goal during the decisive game played at the Valascia against Ambrì-Piotta.

Julien became a real legend in Lugano and his number 3 will stay forever under the roof of the Resega (now Cornèr Arena). He was one of the best Swiss defensemen of this century, he always wore proudly the jersey of the Bianconeri and during the best years he even tallied an impressive number of points. Out of the three brothers, Julien is the one who earned the most prestigious results. He won two times the Swiss title with Lugano, over the years he won several individual prizes, he took part in an AHL All Star Game and even won the silver medal with Switzerland at the 2013 Worlds.

To finish, Tristan is perhaps the one of the three brothers who, with all due respect, had less “pure talent” but that everything he conquered in his career was earned through sweat and hard work. He never won any title but was always appreciated by his fans because of his will to give it the 110% during each single shift. Tristan was the perfect example of the essential player for each team. That kind of a player that perhaps never gifts the fans with spectacular individual plays… but that always gifts the fans with his incredible determination.

Geoffrey, Julien and Tristan were three different brothers when it comes to player type. All of three, however, certainly left their mark in Switzerland this century. One in a thousand makes it… in the case of the Vauclair family, percentages are to be reviewed.

It’s the end of an era. Thanks for all you gave to Swiss hockey and for all you will give again!

Xtraice rink in the Azores.

Xtraice rink at Praia Vitória, on Island of Terceira

By George Da Silva – National Teams of ice Hockey

The archipelago of the Azores is located in the middle of the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Islands are about 1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Portugal, about 1,500 km (930 mi) west of Lisbon, in continental Portugal, about 1,500 km (930 mi) northwest of Morocco, and about 2,500 km (1,600 mi) southeast of Newfoundland, Canada.

There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria,
and the Formigas Reef to the east and the Population of the islands are about 250,000.

In 2018 Xtraice opened it ts first ecological ice rink in the Azores (Portugal).

The 100m2 rink was purchased by a Portuguese company that is betting strong on Xtraice synthetic rinks.

Thanks to this initiative the Azorean people and tourists on the island enjoy a typical Christmas activity such as ice skating without being affected by the warm climate on the island.

The rink was installed at Praia Vitória, on Island Terceira. Praia Vitória is one of the most modern cities of The Azores, with a beautiful beach and high class port.

Also In 2019 Xtraice opened a 20x10m rectangular skating rink at Lagoa on the Island of São Miguel. The island is the crown jewel of the Azores not only is it the biggest island, but it the most beautiful island of them all.

Ice Rink in Lagoa, Azores

Local Children skating in Lagoa, Azores

The rinks will ran from the end of November to January 6th of 2019 and from end of November to January 7th of 2020. The rink is ecological and recyclable, avoiding the use of water and electricity. Xtraice rinks are environment friendly which results in large savings both energetically and financially.

No Ice hockey was played but the Azorean people can dream of one day  ice hockey being played in the archipelago of the Azores.

Ice Rink In Transnistria

Ice rink Snezhinka

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

A forgotten remnant of the Soviet Union, Transnistria is an unrecognized country hidden behind a heavily militarized border between Moldova and Ukraine. 

Transnistria is one of a number of frozen conflict zones that emerged following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. While almost every other country in the world refuses to acknowledge the independence of Transnistria, this autonomous territory features its own presidential government, a national flag, anthem and even a currency: the Transnistrian Ruble.

One of the most notable things about Transnistria and Tiraspol (the second largest city in Moldova and the capital of Transnistria) in particular is the prevalence of Soviet symbology. While socialist monuments and busts of Lenin may still be commonplace in other former-USSR nations such as Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, Transnistria goes one step further, actually referring to itself as a ‘soviet state.’

The ice  rink Snezhinka

Built according to the Polish project, allows developing such sports as hockey and figure skating in Transnistria . Powerful refrigeration units allow you to keep minus temperatures on the surface of the ice rink.

It offers visitors – cafes , locker rooms, showers , skate rental. The room has permanent stands with 600 seats. During the holidays, additional stands are set up. As a result, the number of seats for spectators is 1058. There are also 2 skate dryers in the ice rink.

Mass Skating, Tiraspol, Moldavia

In June 2008, the construction of the ice rink was completed, and the opening ceremony was performed by world-famous Russian skaters who presented the ice show created by the general director of the Ice Symphony company Ilya Averbukh .

In 2011, a figure skating competition was held at the rink and in August 2013, a monument to the great hockey player Vladimir Krutov was erected at the rink’s entrance. The ceremony was attended his widow Nina Krutov and outstanding soviet hockey players Alexander Yakushev, Sergei Makarov and Alexander Kozhevnikov.

Vladimir Krutov was a two time Olympic champion, five time world champion, winner of the Canada Cup and a multiple U.S.S.R. champion with CSKA. The Vladimir Krutov Hockey Academy was opened, the first international youth tournament in memory of Vladimir Krutov was held at the same time.

Monument of Vladimir Krutov

Tony Hand set to add vast experience to GB Women’s program

GB Women’s head coach Cheryl Smith has welcomed the addition of Tony Hand to the program

By Phil Harrison – Yorkshire Post

Former GB international Hand, a legend of the British game, has seen his role as the national development head coach expanded from overseeing the men’s Under-20s, Under-18s and Under-16s to now work with coaches and players’ from across the women’s national set-up.

The Edinburgh-born former NHL draft pick, who as head coach took the GB men’s team to the final qualifying stages for the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, took up his national development role in August 2016.

“We have a great women’s program and some amazing young talent mixed in with a core of experienced senior players,” said Sheffield-born Smith,.

Tony Hand, pictured above right with former GB forward Colin Shields

“Tony’s experience will only enhance that and I look forward to working with him in the future. I am sure the coaches and players will learn a lot from Tony’s many years of experience.

Hand, who played for Sheffield Steelers between 1995-99, coached Manchester Phoenix from 2006-17 and is also currently head coach at Murrayfield Racers in the Scottish National league, said: “We have some fantastic talent in the women’s programme, with some very exciting young prospects.

“I’m also looking forward to working alongside the great set of coaches we have in the women’s set-up when next season gets underway.”

Ice Hockey UK chairman, Richard Grieveson, added: “Tony will be a massive asset to the women’s programme. He has done fantastic work with our juniors since 2016 and it seemed natural to expand this to the women too.”

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