ROSENHEIM, Germany – The German hockey community is in mourning after the passing of national team goalie Robert Müller on Thursday, two-and-a-half years after it became known that he had a brain tumour.
“We are shocked and very sad. Robert was a great personality,” Thomas Eichin, general manager of his last club Kölner Haie, said in an announcement on Friday. “He impressed us all and was an idol for many people not only as a sportsman. He will leave a big hole. Our thoughts are with his family. We wish them strength in this difficult time.”
“With his strong will, Müller inspired many people in their battle against the terrible disease,” Franz Reindl, the general secretary of the German Ice Hockey Association, said. “He showed us all what it means to never give up.”
It was in November 2006 when it became known that Müller had a brain tumour when he went to the doctor complaining about migraine symptoms, and friends noticed changes in his personality. After a first surgery, it didn’t take more than two months until Müller was back on the ice.
He was able to play the full 2007-2008 season. His comeback was a sensation and he received a warm welcome from fans of clubs all over the country. He even starred as the winning goalie in the second-longest game in hockey history when Müller and his Sharks beat his former club Adler Mannheim in a 5-4 victory after 168:16 minutes, receiving 100 shots on his goal. His will was stronger than the enemy in his head.
The Bavarian participated in the 2008 World Championship in Canada and was in the net for Germany’s surprising 4-2 win over Slovakia, in which he deflected 36 shots.
Unfortunately, the story did not come to its deserved happy Hollywood-ending. In August 2008, Müller underwent a second brain surgery. It became clear that the tumour would not disappear as the cells had become resistant against any method. Müller tried his best to hide the fatality of the situation until he allowed his doctor to publish all the facts in November 2008
It was then, that it became clear Müller would not win the fight against glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive and incurable fourth-degree brain tumour.
Müller practised again with his team and even played a few minutes in two games the same month. He had his last game on November 23 against Krefeld Pinguine. Since then, his state of health became worse and he spent his last days with his family in his hometown Rosenheim.
Müller, born on June 25, 1980, in Rosenheim, appeared in 127 national team games including two Olympics and eight World Championships. He played for the Star Bulls Rosenheim, Adler Mannheim, Krefeld Pinguine, Duisburg Füchse and Kölner Haie in the German league winning two titles, and for Switzerland’s EHC Basel.
He was inducted into the German Hall of Fame in March 2009. Kölner Haie retired his number 80.
Müller is survived by his wife Jenny, his daughter Lena and his son Luis.