Ice hockey: Düsseldorf is worried about the euphoria – sport
The euphoria was huge in the city. More than 10,000 fans made the pilgrimage to the ice hockey dome last Sunday to shout their Düsseldorf EG into the playoff quarterfinals. But the ice was thin. In the final main round game against Adler Mannheim, DEG lost 4-0 and slipped out of the top six in the table at the last moment.
After the third goal conceded, a fan jumped out of his seat in the stands and banged his DEG flag on a banister so furiously as if he wanted to rip the yellow and red fabric to shreds. After a few seconds, exhausted, he broke off the anger therapy. It didn’t help either.
While the Rhenish rivals Kölner Haien, of all people, slipped past the bottom of the table and relegated Bietigheim 8-2 and went straight into the quarter-finals, Düsseldorf slipped to seventh place and has to go into the first playoff round against the Löwen Frankfurt, in the so-called pre-playoffs. The name already suggests that it really only starts after that.
The last Düsseldorf championship title was 27 years ago
Düsseldorf’s Swedish coach Roger Hansson took the blame. “I told the guys before the season that if we had more than 90 points we would definitely end up in the top six,” he said mischievously. The Düsseldorfers had already collected 91 points on the third to last match day, but then they lost the last two games in Wolfsburg and against Mannheim and, after six weeks in a row in the top six, are suddenly only seventh.
“It’s bitter and disappointing,” said captain Alexander Barta, who turned 40 in early February and played his 1000th game in Germany at the end of February ice Hockey Liga (DEL) contested. But with so much experience, you no longer freak out or smash your racket. “We’ll ponder for a few hours – then we’ll move on,” said Barta calmly. As a preventive measure, they recorded “You’ll never walk alone” in the Dome immediately after the defeat. Two victories are needed against Frankfurt to move into the quarter-final game in which Ingolstadt, second in the main round, is waiting.
It’s been 27 years since DEG celebrated the last of their eight championship titles, but nobody in Düsseldorf is dreaming of the championship right now. Once again a semi-final (last time 2011) or even a final (last time 2009) – they would like that. Hopes are still high in a season in which Norwegian Henrik Haukeland is one of the best goalkeepers in the league, former Munich player Philip Gogulla is one of the most experienced strikers and Oberbayern Bernhard Ebner, who has been playing in Düsseldorf for a long time, is one of the most accomplished defenders .
With 7,615 spectators per home game, DEG is fourth in the audience ranking behind Cologne, Berlin and Mannheim. “Congratulations on a great season!”, Mannheim coach Bill Stewart congratulated Düsseldorf on Sunday, but shortly after falling to seventh place at DEG, nobody felt great.
Masters Berlin would have been the most thankless task – but promoted Frankfurt also carries the risk of an abrupt end
“Unfortunately they have Cologne Sharks in the last few weeks,” DEG sports director Niki Mondt complained. However, the 44-year-old native of Düsseldorf did not overestimate the fact that they were pushed from the important sixth place by their Rhenish rivals at the last second. In the 2005/06 season he even played for the sharks for a year.
As a 17-year-old, Mondt got his first DEL assignments in Düsseldorf in the 1995/96 season, at the end of which DEG became German champions for the last time. But he was only allowed to watch the playoffs back then. He became champion in 2010 with the Hanover Scorpions under coach Hans Zach. They have just extended Mondt’s contract with DEG until 2027. Until then, they want to gradually expand their role in the league. “A good season starts in the semi-finals,” recently revealed defender Ebner der Rheinische Post.
Despite all the frustration on Sunday evening, the people of Düsseldorf were even relieved that the opponent in the pre-playoff was not the current champion Polar Bears Berlin has become. At the end of a miserable season, the Berliners almost saved themselves in tenth place. They would have been the most ungrateful opponent for the Düsseldorfers, then their season could have ended abruptly next Friday or Sunday.
Of course, this danger also exists against promoted Frankfurt. “It starts at zero,” says sports director Mondt. “It’s going to be a tight thing,” says Captain Barta. “Now we have to quickly find a mental state in which we can fully accept the pre-playoffs,” says coach Hansson. In Düsseldorf they are a bit afraid that the season will suddenly end much faster than expected. Then the euphoria in the city would be gone in one fell swoop.