News : No time for long faces – sport
If everything is different than usual, a sand dune can turn into a spectacle. For the German national ice hockey team, the trip to the vicinity of the Latvian capital Riga was at least a highlight of their six-week World Cup campaign, including preparation time, and a change from the monotonous everyday life in the corona bubble in Latvia. A two-hour visit to the dunes, including your own pavilion and catering – there is no more space available.
Franz Reindl, President of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB), describes the conditions for players, coaches and supervisors in Riga as “quite life-limiting”. Just go out and get some fresh air “is not possible here,” added sports director Christian Künast. The excursion on Thursday was all the more special, accompanied by a police escort, which the players used for a walk along the water and the coaches for a jogging session. Previously in Riga they had only seen the inside of the dining room, their hotel rooms and the stadium. National coach Toni Söderholm wanted to press the “reset button” with the trip the day after the first tournament defeat against Kazakhstan (2: 3). His players should clear their minds.
The only one who did not enjoy the fresh air was Dominik Kahun. The Edmonton Oilers striker only arrived at the team hotel on Wednesday and still has to do his three-day individual quarantine in the room. His first wish, a bicycle ergometer, was quickly fulfilled. “It would be nonsense to just sit in the room for three days and not move,” he said in the video interview. Kahun has had a long and “quite stressful” journey. After his Oilers’ playoffs against Winnipeg and his return to Edmonton at 5 a.m., the 25-year-old only had a few minutes to decide whether to travel to the World Cup.
He wanted – and started his next flight at 11 a.m. Canadian time, which took him to Riga via Montréal and Frankfurt am Main. “I am sure that I will give the team some momentum,” said Kahun, whose first appearance according to Künast is theoretically possible next Monday against the USA. The last group game against Latvia on Tuesday was more realistic. He has not yet spoken to Söderholm about his role in the team and potential colleagues in the row, said Kahun.
Can Lukas Reichel play against Finland again? “We’re talking about a 19-year-old, I won’t take any risks,” said the national coach
The mood of the national coach during this conversation will certainly be better than it was on Wednesday after the game against Kazakhstan. Especially when it came to a certain scene. His youngest player Lukas Reichel, 19, was unable to play from the second period onwards because he had previously received a rough check from Kazak Ivan Stepanenko. “This is already the third check against the head against one of our players in four games,” complained the national coach. Söderholm was reminded of a similar scene two years ago when the then 18-year-old World Cup debutant Moritz Seider suffered a concussion and had to sit out three games. Reichel is doing well so far, said Künast on Thursday, the striker was “not conspicuous”. The coaching team approaches this delicate subject with extreme caution. “We’re talking about a 19-year-old,” emphasized Söderholm, “I won’t take any risks.”
What the national coach didn’t like much better was the way his team performed against the promoted team. The tiredness after the hard-earned 3-1 win against Canada two days earlier was palpable. The Canada game cost a lot of strength, confirmed captain Moritz Müller. “We were a bit slow in our heads,” added Söderholm, who nevertheless trusted the same 22 players in the fourth tournament game. Müller knows that processing such negative experiences quickly is of essential importance in a tournament. You couldn’t expect to come to a World Cup and win every game: “Anyone who thought that you could just walk through a tournament now knows at the latest that this is not the case.” Defeats were part of it, “we have to deal with that just as much as the win against Canada.”
More big names are waiting for the DEB team: On Saturday (7.15 p.m.) it will play against world champions Finland, then against the USA and at the end of the preliminary round against Latvia – all candidates for the quarter-finals. The general conditions could change soon, Reindl assumes that spectators will still be allowed in the halls: “Maybe already on Sunday.” Before the duel with his home country, Söderholm believes that the Finnish way of playing suits his team. Moritz Seider knows what the German team can expect. “Lots of big boys, experienced strikers, a strong defense. A fast team. But we don’t need to hide.” Especially not behind a sand dune in Riga.