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Old
04-17-2017, 04:27 AM
  #1
jnk96
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Improving German (Junior) Hockey

Watching the U18 worlds got me wondering once more: what could the DEB do to improve their teams and to develop more high-end prospects?

It's been an issue for many years and usually comes up with the DEL's foreign player discussion as well. Sure, Leon Draisaitl looks like one of the world's top 50 hockey players right now, at age 21, but he is so incredibly talented, nothing could have gone wrong with him. Plus, he played the most important years of his junior development in Canada. When it comes to developing competitive junior national teams, a competitive junior league or NHL draft prospects, Germany fails consistently.

Then you watch the Swiss who have somehow managed to shape teams on every level (including the men's world championship) that can compete against the big hockey nations year after year. They have done that with a population of just 8 million vs. Germany's 80 million.

So, what could the DEB do?

Development Program
The USA have been doing this successfully for years. They have an under-17 team that plays in the USHL and an under-18 team that plays games against USHL and NCAA teams on an independent schedule. The rosters include most of the country's top prospects, and they are developed at the highest level. A nice "side effect" is that the under-18 team can just go to the world championships with a team that's been playing together all year.
In Germany, it obviously wouldn't work the exact same way (at least not right away). Germany's top prospects are often 16 or even 15-year-olds like Dominik Bokk and Yannik Valenti, who are already regulars in the DNL. What might work, however, would be one under-18 and one under-20 team or, probably the more realistic option (since the under-20 team would have no one to play against), only an under-18 team. That team could play in the DNL.
It might sound unfair, as the team would have "all the best players," but it probably isn't when you think about it. For the most part, the older players are the ones who score the most in the DNL and it would stay that way - Team Germany would have no players older than 18. Plus, even if they were dominant, what's the difference to a team like Cologne this season, who crushed just about everyone.
Alternatively, Team Germany could play in the EBJL.

Two Top Junior Leagues
Germany currently has only the Schüler Bundesliga and DNL. The Schüler level is so low, any above-averagely talented player dominates it. Plus, the two leagues are under-16 and under-19, there's nothing in between and nothing above 19. So, how about an under-18 and an under-19 league, similar to the SuperElit and J18 Elit in Sweden. Only the very best 16 and 17-year-olds play in the U20 league, the rest stays in the U18. That way, the older players will stop dominating a league whose age range is just too big.
The problem here is that Germany doesn't have enough talented players. So, this will be a long process that starts with investing (time and money) in animating more kids to start playing and then give those kids the best-possible development until they reach the U18 level.

Fewer Foreign Players in the DEL
I'm still not sure if this would work. Most likely, it would only really work if only 3 foreign players were allowed per team. That way, teams would have to start letting players like Mick Köhler in Cologne play in the DEL. Or, at least, current DEL2 players would have to be pulled up to the DEL, current Oberliga guys go up to the DEL2, and current DNL players move up to the Oberliga. No one can tell me 18-to-22-year-old Germans who just started their pro careers are more expensive than 35-year-old Americans.
Here, the problems are obvious as well. Reducing the number that drastically would lower the league quality. That could even result in German star players like Patrick Reimer leaving the DEL for other European leagues. Plus, if that many Germans get pulled up to the pro ranks sooner, who is left to play junior hockey? Will the quality of both the DEL and DNL suffer? It's impossible to predict.
Again, a long process.

---------------------------------------

I thought it could be fun to discuss some ideas, thoughts and concerns here, so please chime in and let me know what you all think!

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04-17-2017, 05:07 AM
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Maverick41
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I haven't gotten around to reading your whole post yet and will probably answer a little more extensively later on, but just one quick comment regarding the DNL:

This season players born in 1998-2000 were the main part of the rosters, but teams were allowed to dress up to 3 players born in 1997 (if they were eligible to play for Germany according to IIHF rules) per game as overagers.
So there were some U20 players in the league and maybe they could build on that.

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04-17-2017, 06:08 AM
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GermanRocket7
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While all of what the op said appears to be a possible part of the solution, this thing needed first and foremost is, plain and simple, €€€€€. As long as third- or even fourth-tier football leagues are televised regularly and hockey is pretty much only even mentioned when a team has won the championship, we're completely and utterly ****ed.

DEL has become known as a no-hitting league with horrible officiating and poor to very poor management. Adding in that we still have, what, 10 (?) roster spots per team for foreign players as opposed to two or three spots in Scandinavian leagues like the SHL and SML.

I had a rather lenghty discussion on that matter with some people formerly working for one of the pro teams in Germany some 8 years ago and they agreed that the best way to improve the quality of homegrown players were a multi-step program along these lines:

1. Mandatory youth teams for all pro clubs with double the budget of what it is now.
Granted, I haven't followed German hockey much in the past 3-4 years simply because of the akwardness of the system and the inability of people in power, but I remember many of the professional teams not even having a proper youth development system. Hamburg, now Munich IIRC, has not had a single youth team at all back then. Wolfsburg and Nürnberg as well. Force teams to entertain peewee, youth, and junior teams with a budget of at least 150.000 € per annum.

2. Reduce the number of roster spots for foreign players to three step-by-step.
Whilst I understand that even borderline pro players from Germany would skyrocket in their market value in no time and thus the overall quality of the league would slump for half a decade of so, this would ensure more German players actually play for the teams. This would foster the binding between team and fans as well as media and furthermore enable the teams to actually offer regular top-dollar payment for those players they use their two foreign roster spots on. I'm tired of all these AHL or even ECHL castoffs, who wouldn't even go on to be an important player in the A. What brings ***** into the seats are top-notch players, who have just fallen under the radar of the NHL teams or, at age 25+, don't care for bus rides in the A any longer and instead seek tranquility and security in Europe. I'm fairly positive a Broc Little would score 80+ points in Germany right now, and easily so.

3. Skip the "closed league" ******** and reintroduce promotion and relegation.
This would send a signal to both media and fans. For as long as I can remember, people who were not into hockey only looked puzzled when confronted with the "closed league" structure of the DEL and called it "counter-athletic" and "backwards". These kind of structures might work well in North America, where the teams are franchises and can move at any given point. However, it is completely opposed to German sports tradition and nixing it would most likely give a huge boost to the league's credibility.

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04-17-2017, 08:10 AM
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It's all about the €€€. There's less money in hockey than ever and this ain't going to change anytime soon (or ever).

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Originally Posted by GermanRocket7 View Post
3. Skip the "closed league" ******** and reintroduce promotion and relegation.
I'm all for it, but most teams don't have the cash to take their chances at promotion. Just look at the DEL2/Oberliga situation, Heilbronn got relegated for 2 years in a row, stayed in the league both years, no Oberliga club could afford DEL2. Likely the same with Rosenheim this year, got relegated, odds of them still staying in DEL2 are quite good.

I've watched a youth practice session a couple of weeks ago, not only was the coach the same dude who trained me about 18 years ago, it was pretty much the same stuff he did back then. Talk about coaching development..

If you're talented enough, go to NA as soon as possible, it's the only way to have a proper chance at becoming a pro nowadays.

Like it or not, Germany's on it's way to become a 3rd world country when it comes to hockey, they got passed by Switzerland, Belarus, Latvia and Denmark withing the last 10/15 years. Next one's France who will overtake Germany and it's (youth)hockey "development".

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04-17-2017, 09:11 AM
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Didn't Germany federation introduce program "something 2026.", and goal of that project is to make Germany strong enough to regularly compete for medals at senior level ?

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04-17-2017, 10:20 AM
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Some good points mentioned already.

Two suggestions from me:

1) NHL rink sizes. This will probably never happen and I have no idea how much the constructions would cost nationwide. But the point is:
If you have a smaller rink size, you are automatically forced to make much faster decisions and you have a lot more puck possesions than on Euro rinks.
And obviously you become a much better player if you have to make more decisions in a shorter time span.

2) Training in very small groups

I recently read a very interesting article somewhere about pro youth soccer clubs, that changed their training for example from 9 vs 9 matches to constantly smaller groups with 3 vs 3 throughout the training. The effect is basically the same as above.
Players are forced to make much more decisions every training compared to before. If you regularly have 400 "Ballaktionen" per training instead of 150, your learning curve is a lot faster. (I don't know anything about hockey training. So definitely needs some adjustment..)

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04-17-2017, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GermanRocket7 View Post
While all of what the op said appears to be a possible part of the solution, this thing needed first and foremost is, plain and simple, €€€€€. As long as third- or even fourth-tier football leagues are televised regularly and hockey is pretty much only even mentioned when a team has won the championship, we're completely and utterly ****ed.
Exactly. Seems like nothing will work without the money.

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Originally Posted by LemmyUlanov55 View Post
I'm all for it, but most teams don't have the cash to take their chances at promotion. Just look at the DEL2/Oberliga situation, Heilbronn got relegated for 2 years in a row, stayed in the league both years, no Oberliga club could afford DEL2. Likely the same with Rosenheim this year, got relegated, odds of them still staying in DEL2 are quite good.
Another huge issue with German hockey. There are almost too many to count... Relegation might help, but won't work because of, again, money.

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Originally Posted by pukovnik View Post
Didn't Germany federation introduce program "something 2026.", and goal of that project is to make Germany strong enough to regularly compete for medals at senior level ?
Yes. But who really believes it will help at all? DEL teams have to pay money if their team doesn't qualify as a five-star development club, and only few have five stars right now. But those five-star clubs, e.g. Krefelder EV, are struggling to stay alive. And some of the big ones, e.g. Munich and Nuremberg, don't even have youth programs at all -- they rather pay for not having youth development.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KahunWOW View Post
2) Training in very small groups

I recently read a very interesting article somewhere about pro youth soccer clubs, that changed their training for example from 9 vs 9 matches to constantly smaller groups with 3 vs 3 throughout the training. The effect is basically the same as above.
Players are forced to make much more decisions every training compared to before. If you regularly have 400 "Ballaktionen" per training instead of 150, your learning curve is a lot faster. (I don't know anything about hockey training. So definitely needs some adjustment..)
I disagree about the rink size. I think I like the European size better. When I played in Canada, we practiced on an international-sized rink maybe twice and there was a notable difference, although I never thought the difference was that big. But I prefer the international size because it leaves more room for skill and passing plays.

As to small-group practice, small-area games are becoming more and more popular in hockey practices as well. It teaches kids a lot of things at the same time, starting with keeping your head up, as well as a long list of other things like stickhandling in traffic and the quick decision making you mentioned. They also improve hockey sense. But this isn't really a thing that will improve a country's overall state of hockey, and Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are already light years ahead in small-area games as well.

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04-17-2017, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by pukovnik View Post
Didn't Germany federation introduce program "something 2026.", and goal of that project is to make Germany strong enough to regularly compete for medals at senior level ?
Yes, their new leadership started that a couple of years ago. And I don't think at this point the program can be deemed either a success or a failure.
Personally I don't have high hopes, because to me all they have are some nice ideas and really good intentions, but they lack the means (i.e. money) to really turn things around.
Anyway, it will take at least another 2 or 3 years until we get any indication if the federation is on the right track and their measures are actually working.

At least they are trying. With their predecessors I always had the feeling they couldn't care less.

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04-20-2017, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnk96 View Post
Fewer Foreign Players in the DEL
...
Here, the problems are obvious as well. Reducing the number that drastically would lower the league quality. That could even result in German star players like Patrick Reimer leaving the DEL for other European leagues.
...
That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, it's better for a player to play in a league where his ability will be tested than to tear up his native league. Team would lose a lot, but NT can only win. He can always return if he starts to slow down.

Things you said here are spot on and I've always been surprised that German hockey has so many problems. Every time I see DEL stands they are full so finding out that hockey is not that popular (or rather not being invested in) surprises me even more.

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04-20-2017, 03:52 PM
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That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, it's better for a player to play in a league where his ability will be tested than to tear up his native league. Team would lose a lot, but NT can only win. He can always return if he starts to slow down.

Things you said here are spot on and I've always been surprised that German hockey has so many problems. Every time I see DEL stands they are full so finding out that hockey is not that popular (or rather not being invested in) surprises me even more.
It gets really sad when you see long-time hockey fans losing interest in German hockey because there's so much wrong with it. There's a lot of untapped potential...

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04-20-2017, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnk96 View Post
Fewer Foreign Players in the DEL
I'm still not sure if this would work.
---------------------------------------
Here, the problems are obvious as well. Reducing the number that drastically would lower the league quality. That could even result in German star players like Patrick Reimer leaving the DEL for other European leagues. Plus, if that many Germans get pulled up to the pro ranks sooner, who is left to play junior hockey? Will the quality of both the DEL and DNL suffer? It's impossible to predict.
Again, a long process.
This is a situation we in Austrian hockey have as well. Two sides of it generally, when I talk to players, coaches, association members, national team fans, they're extremely against legios and they want a 6 legio import limit. The other side of course is the fans of poorer clubs, import coaches, the import players themselves etc.

I support having a higher legio limit. I think it's absolutely imperative to give athletes a high upper bound, and that means a competitive local league which young prospects can use to develop themselves and propel themselves to high leagues. I think on the international circuit we're starting to see the continued stagnation or decline of programs like Norway, France, Slovenia and Italy because of a lack of strong local leagues. These local leagues provide such low competition that talented young prospects are able to dominate in them for years without ever improving. Upon making transfers, their prospects usually do not pan out well at the next level of competition. Most prospects aren't going to be top prospects who can stay in NA leagues and develop into stars. Most are going to have to come home at some point and likely spend their 19-22 years in the domestic circuit. If the local league is not competitive enough to boost them to more competitive leagues then you'll get something like what is happening to the aforementioned countries. I mean it was the most pathetic thing to see, all the top Norwegian league prospects last year signed to Allsvenskan contracts and one by one each of them underwhelmed or bombed. Sondre Olden getting cut has almost become an annual event.

Germans need to learn how to skate, that's their problem. The rest is superficial.

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04-21-2017, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by GermanRocket7 View Post
1. Mandatory youth teams for all pro clubs with double the budget of what it is now.
Granted, I haven't followed German hockey much in the past 3-4 years simply because of the akwardness of the system and the inability of people in power, but I remember many of the professional teams not even having a proper youth development system. Hamburg, now Munich IIRC, has not had a single youth team at all back then. Wolfsburg and Nürnberg as well. Force teams to entertain peewee, youth, and junior teams with a budget of at least 150.000 € per annum.
Youth teams are already mandatory, in fact, the teams needed to be at a certain level, or the main-team would need to pay a penalty.
Hamburg is gone entirely, it is not the same team as Munich. Munich already won the championship last year, a time when Hamburg was still around. And btw, Hamburg did have all the necessary youth-teams. It didn't have them right away, but that's because you can't create youth-teams out of nothing. They did cooperate with existing lower-level teams in Hamburg, which helped both sides. The entire youth-program developed nicely, but ended up as an unfortunate victim of the main-team ceeding to exist. None of the remaining teams could afford to carry a youth-program that was more expensive than their main-roster.


I'm not sure why anyone even mentions something like population. That number is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter one bit that Germany has far more people than Switzerland, because most of these people aren't into hockey. What counts is the number of hockey-players, and Germany doesn't have any advantage in that regard. Switzerland is basically mountainous everywhere, allowing for excellent conditions for winter-sports everywhere, while most of Germany can be lucky if lakes freeze over enough for people to skate on for a few days once every ten years.

That doesn't mean that Germany couldn't learn a whole lot from Switzerland.

Though many of the things listed completely ignore the effects of such moves. Drastically lower the number of imports, and the prices for Germans will go through the roof, small teams will have little chance to compete, which lowers their income. If they are lucky, they develop a constant stream of good talent, which will be bought away by bigger teams every year. That usually doesn't tend to work all that well though.

Improving the youth-system takes ages, and requires a lot of money, money that isn't really around right now. Certain steps can be taken, but there isn't anything that will quickly improve the situation.

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04-21-2017, 08:34 AM
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I'm not sure why anyone even mentions something like population. That number is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter one bit that Germany has far more people than Switzerland, because most of these people aren't into hockey.
I disagree. More people equals more potential players (of any sport). And it certainly is possible to grow a sport if you actively try.

For example, american football is becoming really popular in Germany. Why? Because the Super Bowl is a huge event that's broadcast on free TV every year, and some regular-season games are broadcast as well. People watch it, see it's exciting and want to try it out. Meanwhile, you have to be a fan to find and watch hockey (DEL, not top-level hockey like the NHL) on TV - and it's not free (except for one game per week).

When Angelique Kerber won the Australian Open in tennis, kids started to try out tennis. When Germany wins the handball world championship, kids start playing handball. There are just sports you don't get exposed to when you don't try, and those are the ones nobody plays. There are ways to present sports to kids and show them they're exciting, and because of that the sports will grow.

Some countries have cricket or rugby as the No. 1 sport. I don't know how either works because there's no way for me to ever stumble across a game. Maybe I'd love cricket, maybe I would have had pro potential in cricket, but I'll never know.

Speaking of rugby, look at rugby sevens - it's become really popular in Canada since being made Olympic.

To circle back to the original topic - population - it does matter. You just have to find ways to grow the sport. And once you increase the number of hockey-playing kids by a certain percentage, population matters. Iceland making the Euro semifinals in soccer is far more impressive than Germany doing the same thing.

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04-21-2017, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanderson View Post
I'm not sure why anyone even mentions something like population. That number is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter one bit that Germany has far more people than Switzerland, because most of these people aren't into hockey. What counts is the number of hockey-players, and Germany doesn't have any advantage in that regard.
You are aware that Germany has 15,774 registered juniors, and Switzerland only has 14,539 registered juniors right? Numbers via IIHF website.

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04-21-2017, 06:11 PM
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LemmyUlanov55
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Originally Posted by kabidjan18 View Post
You are aware that Germany has 15,774 registered juniors, and Switzerland only has 14,539 registered juniors right? Numbers via IIHF website.
I'd be really interested in how much money both countries spent on development for their juniors. Pretty sure this would turn this statistic upside down.

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