Tiffels hopes for “trouble-free time”
by Derek O'Brien|23 NOV 2021
German national team forward Frederik Tiffels has shone with Red Bull Munich in the Champions Hockey League with six goals and 12 points from seven games.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Last Tuesday night, Red Bull Munich travelled to Switzerland to face Fribourg-Gotteron in the first leg of the Champions Hockey League’s Round of 16 and won 4-2. The perennial German powerhouse qualified for this stage of the tournament with a big 6-1 win on 13 October over EV Zug on its last trip to Switzerland. Since then, however, Munich has only played three DEL games due to a Covid-19 outbreak on the team.

For left-winger Frederik Tiffels, it was only his second game since Zug, and chipped in with a goal and an assist. The CHL’s leading scorer through the group stage was one of the players who tested positive in mid-October and spent two weeks in quarantine. He was finally cleared to play on 7 November, a 6-3 win over the Iserlohn Roosters in which he recorded three assists.

To this point, Tiffels has only played in 10 of his team’s 17 DEL games so far.

“I had tonsilitis after two or three games. Then I came back, played a few games and then had to deal with the Covid issue,” said Tiffels. “Now I’m just looking forward to some trouble-free time, staying healthy and being able to play the rest of the way.”

Tiffels, 26, is in his first year playing in Munich after playing the past three seasons for his hometown team, Kolner Haie. He’s come to a team that has been dominant in the DEL in recent years, winning three of the past five titles and also won the regular season the year the playoffs were wiped out by the pandemic. Munich also went to the CHL final in 2018/19.

“They’re always one of the top three teams in the league,” while the team and the city have been “just amazing so far.” 

“I don’t have a single bad word to say about Munich. Everybody’s been great to me. A lot of the guys I already knew from the German national team and everybody’s really nice, really competitive, really good hockey players.

“Also the coaching staff. I mean, (head coach) Don Jackson has been very successful in this league, so these guys know what they’re talking about and it’s been really easy for me to fit in.”

Tiffels has made the most of his 10 DEL games this season by producing 17 points, which puts him third in team scoring. In the CHL, his 12 points have him tops on the team and second in the whole competition behind only Frolunda Gothenburg’s Ryan Lasch.

“I think it’s too early to tell, but it’s fun having a good start,” he said about his scoring success. “The system here suits me well and, obviously, I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my linemates. Trevor Parkes has been outstanding over four or five years in this league and being the top goal scorer the last year or two. And then Ben Street’s been a really good player in the AHL and also some time in the NHL, so he has a lot of experience.”

Tiffels comes from the German hockey hotbed of Cologne, home of Uwe Krupp and Leon Draisaitl. In fact, he’s had Krupp as a coach in pro and Draisaitl was a teammate growing up.

“We’re both from the same hometown and we’ve known each other since we were young,” he said of Draisaitl.  “And Dominik Kahun I met in Mannheim at around 16. We all played on the same team at one time. We were a pretty good team.”

The same year Draisaitl went to Canada to play in the Western Hockey League, Tiffels took the unusual route of going to the United States at age 17 to play in the USHL, followed by college hockey. 

“My agent at the time was from Canada and he went to college, so he put it in my mind that it was an option and I was impressed at the beginning that I could do school and hockey at the same time and get the college experience,” said Tiffels. “I was one of the first guys from Germany to go over there for college, and now I see more guys going over there.”

Going to high school in Muskegon, Michigan and Cedar Rapids, Iowa was a bit of a culture shock for a boy from the Rhineland, starting with the language barrier.  “Nobody could speak German, but it was good for me because I was forced to speak English and had to pick it up really fast, which I’m very happy that I did,” he said.

After four seasons at the University of Western Michigan, during which time he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and one season of pro split between the AHL and ECHL, Tiffels returned to Germany in 2018.

“I went back to my hometown team, where my brother and some of my friends played,” he said of his Kolner Haie days. “That was a good time, coming back and being able to play in front of my family again after eight years being away.”

Tiffels’ brother, defenceman Dominik, is a year older, and the two were always on the same team growing up in Cologne and Mannheim. 

“He’s only one year older than me so growing up, I always played with my brother. I basically played my entire life with him, and this year, about a month ago, I played against him for the first time in my life.”

Frederik scored a goal that game against Dominik’s Krefeld Pinguine in a 3-2 overtime win for Munich, but there weren’t many Tiffels-versus-Tiffels highlights.

“He’s a defenceman and I’m a forward and we were on the ice against each other a few times, but we never ended up in the same corner or a situation for a big hit, so it was all friendly and brotherly love,” the younger brother laughed.

Internationally, Tiffels has played in four World Championships, including 2021 in the Riga bubble where Germany finished fourth. 

“It wasn’t the finish that we wanted, but I think it showed us that if we believe in ourselves, we have a good hockey nation coming up,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to take home some medals in the next few years.”

As for the CHL: “It’s very exciting to play different teams and different players than you’re used to in the league. Obviously, Sweden is one of the great hockey countries and they’re tough to play against, and Switzerland is a good hockey country. It’s really fun to play hockey at a really high level.”

Prior to the first game against Fribourg, he said: “I think they’re in first place right now. I know they won every game (in the group stage) and set some records, so it’s not going to get easier for us. But we believe we are a great team as well and I believe we can win.”

With a two-goal lead on aggregate heading into the second leg on home ice, they’re on the right track.