Polar Bear for life

Felski ends playing career after 20 years with the same club

30.10.2012
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In Sven Felski’s last World Championship Germany ended up in fourth place on home ice after narrowly losing to Russia in the semi-finals. Photo: Jukka Rautio / HHOF-IIHF Images

BERLIN – Former German national team player Sven Felski announced that he ends his career that saw him play for only one club during his whole junior and professional career, Eisbären Berlin.

The new week in Germany started with a press conference where Sven Felski announced the end of his playing career. The news didn’t come as a surprise for German hockey fans. Felski has missed the entire 2012/2013 season so far, having suffered several injuries on his left knee in the last few years.

“It’s for sure the most difficult day of my career as an athlete. I don’t only love this sport, I live it,” the 37-year-old said at the press conference on Monday with tears in his eyes. “Unfortunately I have to end my career as a player due to the medical tests. The doctors told me that the risk [of continuing] would be simply too high. On the other side I’m very proud to have played professionally for 20 years and this even for the same club.”

With that Felski, one of the most exemplary, respected and faithful players in German ice hockey, leaves the ice.

Last spring he played his 1,000th game in Germany’s top league when Eisbären Berlin won the final series against Adler Mannheim, the sixth national title for the club and for Felski. It turned out to be a farewell straight out of a Hollywood script, with 14,200 fans celebrating when Eisbären claimed a championship on home ice for the first time.

In these 1,000 games he was known for his physical and fearless play as a forward. He scored 233 goals in the top league, second in club history behind only Joachim Ziesche (284).

Born in East Berlin, the club’s traditional home venue Sportforum Hohenschönhausen became Felski’s second home already at the age of four when he joined the club, then called Dynamo Berlin. He first practised as a figure skater before switching to ice hockey at the age of ten.

It was a move he never had to regret, although nobody could have known at that time that he would become one of Germany’s top players in national and international play and that he would stay with the organization for more than three decades, including 20 seasons with the professional team.

Thanks to his long-time contribution and reputation he even got the nickname “Bürgermeister”, the German word for mayor, beside to his traditional nickname “Felle”.

Billy Flynn, now administrative director in the club, remembers an anecdote back in 1994 when he met Felski the first time.

“In September 1994 I was the coach of Preussen Berlin [then Eisbären’s city rival] and I told him Preussen should become his club. In November 1994 I became sports director at Eisbären. Then I told him: ‘Felle, of course you have to stay here, Eisbären is your club.’” Flynn said. “I’m very happy he only listened to me the second time. Felle was a role model as player and person. He always showed to the young players how to win and how to battle. I believe no player has done more for his club and his city.”

Before launching his professional career by debuting in the German top league for Eisbären Berlin he started his international career in 1990 as an 18-year-old, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In 1990 he represented the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the U18 European Championship C-Pool. Then he represented reunified Germany in two more U18 European Championships and two U20 World Championships, all in the A-Pool.

His debut with the senior national team in the IIHF World Championship came in 1998 as a 23-year-old when Germany played a few kilometres off its border in Basel, Switzerland. By the end Felski has represented his country in ten World Championships (eight in the Top Division) and in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The last time he played in an IIHF competition was when Germany hosted the 2010 IIHF World Championship on home ice – an event that brings back memories of defeating the U.S. on home ice in the opening game before 77,803 fans in the football stadium of Gelsenkirchen.

The team eventually finished in fourth place after edging arch-rival Switzerland 1-0 in the quarter-final in Mannheim before narrowly losing the semi-final clash to Russia, 2-1, after a German first-period lead and Pavel Datsyuk’s game-winning goal with 1:50 remaining in regulation time. Felski announced the end of his international career after the 3-1 loss to Sweden in the bronze medal game.

In total Felski played 159 games for the men’s national team including 58 at World Championships and nine in Olympic Games.

His hometown team Eisbären Berlin has been his love for three decades and one can be sure that his passion for the most successful sports teams coming from East Germany will not fade.

His number 11 will be retired when Felski will wear it for the last time in a farewell game. He announced that the game will not be played at the state-of-the-art O2 World where the press conference was held, but at the old-school Sportforum Hohenschönhausen in the very east of Berlin where his career started.

In the near future Felski will be introduced to the club’s various positions in the management and youth hockey with the prospect of starting his post-player career within the club.

MARTIN MERK

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