On October 3rd, Cologne had a taste of NHL air: the Edmonton Oilers arrived in town to play the Cologne Sharks as part of the “NHL Global Series Challenge” and the two teams put on a great hockey spectacle for 18,400 spectators in the Lanxess Arena. The game had many special moments, and also gave reason to look at what the DEL can still learn from their overseas counterparts.
With their roots in the Kölner Eisklub, the “Haie” belong to one of the most traditional ice hockey teams in Germany. Even before the club was founded in 1972 they were at the forefront of the sport and have played continuously in the top German league since 1973. They are eight times German champions and became one of the founding clubs of the German Ice Hockey League DEL in 1994.
The game against the Edmonton Oilers on the Day of German Unity was, in many ways, a very special one. For one thing, you don’t have the NHL and their “hockey circus” as guests every day. What’s more, Haie head coach Peter Draisaitl and Oilers Center Leon Draisaitl faced each other as father and son to give the game an extra emotional touch. And, when the first symbolic bully involves German national coach Marco Sturm, himself a former Shark player and former NHL star, the cornerstone for a thrilling game has been laid.
We wanted to know whether Cologne had somehow prepared differently for the game against the NHL visitors, so we asked Sharks Athletic coach, Arne Greskowiak: “It makes no difference to us whether we play against a team from the NHL or the DEL, the preparation is the same,” he explained. Greskowiak uses the Firstbeat Sports System, among other things, to provide the coaching team with objective data on the load and recovery of each player. “The majority of the NHL teams also work with the Firstbeat system, that’s the way to go. So, we’re in good company there,” he continued.
From the DEL perspective, the match against the Oilers was more than a friendly contest for the Kölner Haie. This type of encounter was a chance for the entire DEL to impress and to learn, as coach Marco Sturm said at a press conference before the match. “We can still learn a lot from the NHL, not just athletically. As far as the whole thing is concerned, the NHL is simply the best of the best,” continued Sturm.
The NHL not only manages to stage the sport of ice hockey impressively and deliver a show. In one of the toughest leagues in the world – even before the playoffs begin each team plays 82 games – physical fitness is becoming more important to players and the coaching team. Efficiency and scientific validity are very important. So, it’s not surprising that more than half of NHL teams use Firstbeat Sports to optimize the training and recovery of their players.
The Kölner Haie are also among a growing number of teams in the DEL who have implemented Firstbeat Sports to help monitor the internal burden of their players during their training routines. For the past two years, this has included optimizing training load in real time during the sessions and games, as well as nurturing effective recovery, with 24-hour measurements now possible to provide an accurate analysis of sleep quality and day-to-day routines. It is the same technology from which the German national ice hockey team has benefited for 3 years.
“In ice hockey, we need to be able to get the maximum performance on matchdays – that can be three times a week – and Firstbeat helps us with objective data that will optimize our training,” said Greskowiak. “The coaching team gets specific information on the load and regeneration of each player and can thus control the preparation for our players.”
Against the Oilers, the Sharks were in contention throughout and the game could have gone either way with the score 3-3 at the end of regular time. But, in overtime, the Canadians took the edge and decided the match 4-3 in their favor. The Sharks and their fans took it in good spirits and are now looking forward to the DEL season with the clear aim of reaching the playoffs!
Pictures: Kai Tiegelkamp
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