BERLIN – The championship party of the Eisbaren Berlin last Sunday was also a farewell party. Germany’s champion leaves the out-dated Sportforum Hohenschonhausen, commonly called Wellblechpalast (literally translated: corrugated iron palace) or “Welli”, and move to the centre of the German capital.
While the current Eisbaren Berlin team had another championship celebration, the legends of Eisbaren Berlin played a game against the legends of the forerunner Dynamo Berlin. As in previous years, a sell-out crowd of 4,695 was announced. The new legends beat the legends of the German Democratic Republic, 6-5, but the result wasn’t the centre of attention.
The 1958-built arena was, for decades, the home to one of the few clubs from East Germany to make a transition to a successful club. The “Welli” was a harbour for many East Berliners who were struggling to adjust to the reunified Germany. The majority of spectators were from the East and “Dynamo” was still chanted from the stands. The arena was a place of worship and one of the few remaining bastions of the “Eastalgia”.
New arena, similar team
The “Polar Bears” will play in a 14,200-capacity arena in central Berlin. Directly on the shore of the Spree River, which divided the East from the West, along with the Berlin Wall, whose painted relics are exactly at the place where the O2 World is being built – on the East side of the river. The entertainment complex will be one of numerous new buildings to enhance the run down area around the former border wall that divided the city until 1989. The defunct East Berlin goods station was at the site of the O2 World before. The arena will open with an exhibition game against the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning at end of September.
Until then, the Eisbaren management is planning a new era in the heart of Berlin. The team will look almost the same as last year’s. DEL All-Star defenceman Richie Regehr (Frankfurt Lions) is the only new player. National team goalie Youri Ziffzer will stay with the club, despite an offer of more ice time from the promoted Kassel Huskies. “To be honest, the Champions Hockey League attracts me. I always wanted to go to Magnitogorsk once,” the 21-year-old told the Eishockey News. Current European club champion Metallurg Magnitigorsk will be one opponent in the CHL group stage, Finland’s Karpat Oulu the other one. Ziffzer will share ice time with the Canadian Rob Zepp.
Many changes in Nuremberg
However, the Berliners are only one of a few clubs to nearly complete its roster. There is much speculation with other clubs, like the Ice Tigers from Nuremberg, another potential CHL team which will play the qualifier tournament September 12-14. The Bavaria-based team lost two of its most important German players. Goalkeeper Dimitrij Kotschnew, who played at the 2008 IIHF World Championship, signed with Spartak Moscow and Ahren Spylo/Nittel will leave for Russia, to Vityaz Chekhov. Martin Ancicka (Adler Mannheim), Brad Leeb (ERC Ingolstadt) and Roland Mayr (Augsburg Panthers) are the new faces. Brad Leeb will join his brother Greg in Nuremberg. Kotschnew’s successor is also now known: Canadian Frederic Cassivi moves to Europe after three years with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. He won the Calder Cup and was named MVP of the 2005-2006 playoffs. He also played 13 NHL games with Atlanta and Washington. Another French-Canadian is expected to join: Alain Nasreddine of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL). The Ice Tigers have also a new head coach with Andreas Brockmann from the Landshut Cannibals. He takes over after Benoit Laporte asked for a release. Laporte will coach ERC Ingolstadt next season.