BERLIN – In Germany only few clubs with professional men’s hockey are eager to invest in women’s hockey as well. The most successful club of the recent years is ESC Planegg and other former champions like ECDC Memmingen, OSC Berlin or TV Kornwestheim may not be that well-known to others than insiders of German hockey either. But now a big player has joined in.
The women’s team of the smaller club OSC Berlin over the summer moved to the Eisbaren Juniors Berlin organization, the youth and amateur hockey association of famous Eisbaren Berlin, which won several DEL championships in men’s ice hockey and countless of East German titles under its old name Dynamo Berlin. Now three out of the eight teams in the women’s Frauen-Bundesliga have a big club behind them, beside Eisbaren Berlin also Dusseldorfer EG and ERC Ingolstadt have a team in the top women’s hockey league of the country.
For managing director Marc Dannbeck, who once played in the top German junior league followed by amateur hockey years, it was a good and necessary step even though it wasn’t an easy one after the long history of the team with its old club. But having seen in his own family that it wasn’t already easy for women back in the days – his grandmother was one of two female medicine students and his mother focused on a business career – he wanted to make sure that his club does its fair share in making it easier for women and girls who want to make ice hockey their sport.
“The team approached us and asked whether we can imagine the transfer and we also develop girls in our youth organization. Together we can use the synergies better. Many years ago many people couldn’t imagine having a women’s team but times have changed,” Dannbeck said.
“It’s very important also for the position of ice hockey in the society that women are also part of hockey. There are more women now than in my days as a player when it comes to numbers. And when they stay in hockey and when later their kids come to hockey, we have gained something. They won’t have issues to bring their kids to hockey if they know the sport that well.”
“In general it’s hard that girls don’t have it that easy in sports. That’s why we have to do something that something changes and we don’t have to talk about discrimination anymore. Everybody has to help. Maybe one day every professional ice hockey club will be obliged to have a women’s team too like it’s the case in German football. For the women’s team it will be easier in our organization and carrying the name Eisbaren will open new doors for them.”
The Eisbaren Juniors run all teams except the men’s pro teams. That includes one men’s amateur team, seven youth teams from under-6 to the top junior league DNL and now the women’s team. Having a team in the Frauen-Bundesliga makes things easier for the girls who play in the (boys’) youth teams of the club. And Dannbeck hopes for the future to have a new full-time coach who can take care also of the women’s team.
Having a top-league women’s team join the Eisbaren organization was also a good opportunity to join the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. The event took place at Wellblechpalast, the old home of Eisbaren Berlin during the socialist days in the eastern district of Hohenschonhausen that is still very much in use for the youth teams.
“When we saw the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend last year, we wanted to take part because it’s important to get out the message that hockey is not only a men’s sport but girls and women can play hockey too and it’s fun for them,” he said.
The club had one girls’ recruiting event before and it pays off by having more girls who start to play ice hockey. “Our goal is that for each category we have two girls who are competitive to play with the boys, that’s the best education. We already had some girls before but now we have a women’s senior team in our club so they have a new perspective.”
The hockey enthusiasts in Berlin seem to respond well on the Polar Bears’ new initiative for women. 60 girls came to the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event.
“It was a great success, much more than we expected. We many coaches, male and female. A lot of girls learned to skate for the first time, they got equipment and skates borrowed from us. We were 15 coaches on the ice and if you have a lot of very young kids and beginners that’s very helpful,” said Dannbeck.
“The girls really had fun. We saw that it was a very special moment for them. They also got a certificate. The best feedback is that so many girls came for the event and maybe one day it will be 100.”
For the whole Eisbaren Berlin organization the event was a success in developing hockey players and increasing the “polar bear family”. During the upcoming weekend the women’s team will play its first Frauen-Bundesliga games under its new name on home ice with back-to-back games against EC Bergkamener Baren.
Find a video from Berlin’s World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend event here