Hockey in Nuremberg saved

Jeweller rescues struggling Ice Tigers, DEL to be reduced

23.05.2009
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The Nürnberg Ice Tigers (pictured: Cole Jarrett) are hit by the financial crisis. Photo: Getty Images / Bongarts

NUREMBERG, Germany – Andre Savage equalized in the game of the Nürnberg Ice Tigers against SC Bern but three Swiss goals out of nine shots in the last period sent the opponent to the lucrative Champions Hockey League.

Maybe everything would have turned out differently in Nuremberg, had the team had more luck in that crucial qualification game in September. But the 2008 regular-season winner of the German DEL had a tough landing in the 2008-2009 season in every aspect.

The fifth-place finish and the 4-1 loss in the quarterfinals against Adler Mannheim were actually the good news. The financial news was less appealing. The Ice Tigers only attracted 4,322 fans compared to 5,032 the year before.

The authorities announced the insolvency of the club in November also because the owner Günther Hertel had become sick of covering operational losses. And the name sponsor Sinupret withdrew the contract for next season.

The DEL venue Nuremberg was on the brink of collapse. There was speculation if the franchise will continue to exist, if it could be relocated to another city like Stuttgart, to a second-tier team like Munich or even to Salzburg, Austria.

However, new investors around jeweller Thomas Sabo rescued the club before the licensing deadline on June 2. The logo and club name have been modified and Sabo became the name sponsor, present on the logo and in the official club name. He, reportedly, covers the biggest part of the club’s debts of €1.5 million.

The short time until the June 2 deadline will also be crucial in Cologne. Former top club Kölner Haie will have to reduce its debts of about €1m until then and is in long-haul discussions with creditors but the fans are still waiting for positive news. The club suffered a high loss after a disastrous season with a 15th-place finish. The budget will be cut by about €1m to €7.5m.

While DEL hockey might be played in Cologne and Nuremberg, the league will be reduced by at least one team. Duisburg Füchse, which didn’t manage to attract enough fans and sponsors, and finished in last place, quit the league and will play in the 2nd Bundesliga next season.

The champion of the second-tier league, the Bietigheim-Bissingen Steelers, turned a possible promotion down due to the short preparation time and the fact that the home arena doesn’t fulfil the DEL criteria. “We want to join the DEL but we don’t want to bury our Steelers,” the club president Hans-Günther Neumann said. After the successful season, the club wants to focus on building a new home arena.

MARTIN MERK

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