Lately, we’ve published our review of the 2018-19 DEL season. Now it’s time to talk with an expert about it. We had the pleasure to interview Holger Neumann of “Hockeyweb.de“, who followed the season from close.
What can you tell us about Adler Mannheim, the 2019 German Champions?
Mannheim is one of the most traditional hockey teams in Germany. One of the reasons for that is also the fact that there is not a huge football history in the city, at least none in the recent decades.
At the same time, Mannheim has been funded in recent years by the Hopp Family who is also the name sponsor of the San Jose Sharks’ arena. The Hoop Family are the founders of the leading international business software company SAP, nowadays based in the Silicon Valley.
Though, not only can Manheim work with – allegedly – one of the biggest budget of the DEL, but they are also one of the centres of German Junior Hockey. NHL-proven players like Leon Draisaitl, Jochen Hecht and Dennis Seidenberg have spent time in Mannheim’s Junior teams. Mannheim had great success in the late 90s, when they won three titles in a row between 1997 and 1999.
Anyway, as the “Adler” won the last title, they’re now tied with Eisbären Berlin as the most successful side of the “DEL era” with 7 titles.
Curiously enough, Mannheim’s current coach Pavel Gross was part of that Mannheim dynasty as a player back in the late 90s. Moreover, Pavel Gross as a coach had previously lost three DEL Final series while coaching Wolfsburg for eleven years, all of them against this year’s finalist Red Bull Munich coached by Don Jackson. The latter won two Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers as a player and is the most successful coach of the DEL era, combining four championships with Eisbären Berlin and three in a row with Red Bull Munich from 2016-2018.
Which team was the surprise of the 2018-19 DEL season?
The biggest surprise of the just completed DEL season was Augsburger Panther (50 km west of Münich), a team that has been in the league ever since its establishment back in 1994.
For a long time, Augsburger has been struggling with budget restrictions and went trhough many changes of coaches and players almost every summer. Working with approximately one third of Mannheim’s budget, the Panther finished the regular season 3rd placed and then advanced to the Semifinals. At that stage, they were defeated by Red Bull Munich – at the top of the league in terms of budget with allegedly 15 million Euro – in an epic seven games’ battle that was the longest series of the DEL history with over 500 minutes of hockey played due to two 3OT games with over a hundred minutes played each.
However, and unfortunately, Coach Mike Stewart who formed this team and shaped the entire organization in his four years spell with Augsburg, recently announced that he was leaving Augsburg and would continue his coaching career with DEL’s rival Köln.
Who were, in your opinion, the three stars of the season?
The three stars of the league were Mike Conolly of Straubing Tigers, Brady Lamb of Augsburger Panther and Dennis Endras of Adler Mannheim.
Brady Lamb, who joined Augsburg in 2013, is a tough guy and a physical player. At the same time, he’s a dangerous shooter, a skilled playmaker, a powerplay quarterback and finally also a “Marathon Man”, who averaged almost 30 minutes TOI during playoffs.
Mike Conolly instead, is not the most physical player around but has a very good hockey sense which allows him to be always in the right place at the right time. Apart from his scoring skills, he also takes over responsibility in his team’s zone and recorded one of the best Plus-Minus records of the league. That, even though Straubing was not one of the top teams.
Dennis Endras finally, who shared nr. 1 goalie role with Chet Pickard (brother of NHL goalie Calvin Pickard) during the regular season, became Mannheim’s starting goalie in the post season and contributed largely to Mannheim’s play-off run. Mannheim went through with no loss in regulation time in all three rounds. Only Nürnberg in the first round and Munich in the finals were able to defeat them after overtime.
Can you share with us some trivia about the 2018-19 DEL season?
As mentioned previously, during the post season, Münich and Augsburg played the longest series with over 500 minutes played in an epic seven games battle. Two games went to the third OT. Mark Voakes scored the game winning goal for Münich in the first one, Brady Lamb for Augsburg in the second one.
The longest game of the DEL history instead, took place in 2008 when Cologne and Mannheim played more than 168 minutes.
There are only two games in hockey history that were longer, that are in the NHL Montreal Maroons vs Detroit Red Wings in 1936 (176 minutes) and in Norway Storhamar vs Sparta Warriors (217 minutes).
This season also saw two DEL records broken: Maury Edwards scored the fastest goal as he put the puck in the back of the net after only four seconds in Jan 6, 2019. Matthias Plachta, his father Jacek was a German-Polish hockey pro and member of the German national team, scored in the final against Munich only five seconds after the face-off opening.
Finally, to date the best goal scorer of the DEL is the captain of Red Bull Munich, Michael Wolf, who announced few months ago his retirement after this season. He’s scored 337 goals. His record though, may be broken in the nearest future by following Patrick Reimer of the Nürnberg Ice Tigers.
The figures about attendances don’t lie… the DEL is very followed! What are the reasons for that?
There are several reasons: One thing is that hockey is available on tv only on SKY’s predecessor Premiere. So, without a tv subscription, if you want to catch some live hockey action you need to go to the arenas.
Mannheim, Köln and Berlin are traditional hockey towns and, by the way, they were the ones who started the era of the modern multi-purpose arenas. If we want to compare hockey to football, the history of football in Köln (who won the first championship of the DEL era in 1995 with Leon Draisaitl’s father Peter Draisaitl as one of the top forwards of that club) and in Berlin has seen quite a lot of ups and downs and this obviously favoured ice hockey in the two cities.
We tried to find information in internet but struggled to understand exactly how the system of promotion-relegation works in Germany. Maybe you can help us to understand?
The system of relegation is a bit difficult in Germany and causes heated discussions. All because there isn’t any relegation, at least from the DEL to the DEL2. This is an “unicum” for professional sport league in Germany. Relegation is scheduled to be re-introduced for the 2020-2021 season, though.
The relegation between DEL2 and the third tier (Oberliga) instead, is a play-out series between the bottom four teams. The first-round winners stay in the league while the first-round losers face each other to establish who is going down. This year it was Deggendorf who lost in seven games against Freiburg and will play in the Oberliga South next year. They will have a “special” reinforce next season though, as former Ingolstadt player Thomas Greilinger (a legend of the DEL) announced that he would play for his hometown team next season.
One last thing… Red Bull and ice hockey. In other words, Red Bull Münich. How do the fans of other teams feel about the Bavarian team?
Red Bull Münich causes mixed emotions. The club has the biggest budget in the league and is run by Red Bull.
On the one hand, they have a comparably small but very loyal fan base that was fueled by the Championship hattrick. On the other one, many fans of others DEL teams have some resentment towards Münich.
At the same time, however, the Red Bull Münich were kind of were Germany’s pride when they made it to the CHL final this year – no German team has ever gone further than round of the last 16 before – even though they were defeated by Frölunda HC of Sweden.
It’s worth to mention, finally, that Red Bull Münich with its Red Bull Academy and the cooperation with Tier3-team SC Rießersee, have produced quite a lot of German pro players. First and foremost, Dominik Kahun of the Chicago Blackhawks, but also players such as Maximilian Kastner, Maximilian Daubner or Andreas and Tobias Eder.
Thank you very much, Holger!
And now… if you want to read our review of the 2018-19 DEL season, here is the link 🙂