Feldmeier returns stronger
by Liz Montroy|13 APR 2023
Franziska Feldmeier has played a significant role in Germany's success at the 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin

Franziska Feldmeier has not had a straightforward national team career. In 2016, she captained Germany’s U18 team and made her senior Women’s Worlds debut, but wouldn’t step on the ice at another senior World Championship until 2022. When she made her return, Feldmeier played through an injury, which led to her spending 10 of the 30 weeks between the 2022 and 2023 Women’s Worlds off the ice in recovery from surgery.

“The thing is I could play, or I was playing back then with the injury, but I had to tape it and it was hurting,” said Feldmeier, who had suffered an ankle tear prior to the 2022 tournament. “But my goal was definitely Worlds.”

For the 10 weeks after her surgery in October when she wasn’t allowed to skate, Feldmeier kept her hockey IQ sharp by watching a lot of games.

“I also helped our team even on the bench and I think that helped me a lot,” said Feldmeier, who plays in Germany’s women’s league (the DFEL) with ESC Planegg. “I practiced 10 weeks after surgery, so I could get on the ice and do some stuff, just not with body contact. But during this time I really watched a lot of hockey.”

At the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Feldmeier is having a career best international performance. She’s scored two goals, helped set up two goals, and was on the ice for two others, screening the opposing team’s goalie. Playing on one of Germany’s top lines with Marie Delarbre and Nicola Eisenschmid, Feldmeier has been regularly trusted on the power play and has felt increasingly confident with each game.

“In the beginning I think I was a little bit insecure because I didn’t play that many games this season,” said Feldmeier. She suited up for just 10 games with ESC Planegg in 2022-23—four in October before her surgery and six once she returned to playing in February. “But I think it’s getting better every game and I’m able to play more confident. I’m also seeing that more still is possible and I can play more confident in the next games hopefully. It’s always getting better.”

Now about that long break from 2016 to 2022. When she graduated high school, Feldmeier knew she didn’t want to go to university, but instead pursue the opportunity that is available in Germany to complete an apprenticeship.

“During that time it was kind of a little hard to get everything together with work and the apprenticeship and then also hockey. So I played hockey [in the DFEL], just not for the national team anymore,” said Feldmeier, who did her apprenticeship in government and administration and worked in human resources. Meanwhile, Feldmeier was a consistent goal scorer with ESC Planegg, contributing 25 to 45 points a season. “After my apprenticeship finished, I had some talks with [Germany's] coach and I started to play again for the national team.”

This doesn’t mean that Feldmeier isn’t still busy managing work and hockey. She has school now too, as she’s decided to work towards a bachelor’s degree. But just as with her return from her ankle injury, Feldmeier found that she readjusted to playing with the national team quickly upon her return.

“[The DFEL] is a little different for sure than the international games, so it was a little difficult in the beginning, but it was during Covid, so we didn’t have that many games,” said Feldmeier. “I think the first two, three games were a little difficult for me, but then it was kind of normal to get back in.”

Feldmeier showed promise in 2022 when she returned from her six year absence. Even with her taped up ankle, she was named Germany’s Best Player of the Game in a difficult loss to Czechia and scored an important tying goal against Denmark (a game that Germany narrowly won 3-2 to avoid relegation). Now, despite the setback of missing much of the 2022-23 season due to injury, she’s making even more of an impact on a team that feels like they too are returning to something big—being a contender in the Women’s Worlds quarter-finals.

“We found a really good feeling together as a team and everyone is just motivating every teammate. Every mindset is positive and that keeps us going.”