Germany face Latvia in a game that will decide who will advance to the quarterfinals of the worlds. DW asked former Germany player John Tripp for his views on the tournament and the prospects for the German team.DW: John Tripp, what are your thoughts on this world championship, particularly the games being played in Cologne? The Lanxess Arena seems to have been pretty full for most of the games.
John Tripp: It has been, especially for the German games, but Cologne is really a sports town. They have soccer, they have basketball, handball not that far away, so they have a lot going on. I haven’t been to Paris, but I know they have had a lot of fans coming out there as well, but in Cologne they have already had a collective attendance of over 300,000 so that’s pretty good. The fans are getting to see some of the best players in the world, so it’s a pretty cool event.
How have things changed for the German national team in the couple of years since you hung up your skates?
There have been a few changes, some players have retired. The one thing you notice is that we had some success when I was there, but now they are getting success again under Marco Sturm. They are getting some more NHL players. I believe he has that connection, and you know Germany did need a little bit of help because they had a real dip a couple of years ago, with the previous two coaches, Pat Cortina and Jakob Kölliker. So they have had some issues. Now they are getting more guys coming in from the NHL, like Tobias Rieder, Thomas Greiss is playing better, Dennis Seidenberg is back. So playing with these experienced players is going to make the youngsters better. It’s a really good thing.
How about the German ice hockey program as a whole. Are things moving in the right direction?
They weren’t going in a good direction before, but now they are because they have replaced all of the under-16, under-17, and under-18 coaches and they have changed the whole coach-licensing program as well, so this has made a big difference. There was a bit of a dip, but now the players are going to properly develop and this is very important. The young players are just as important as the old players. If you don’t take care of both ends, one is going to be missing and one is going to affect you at some point down the road.
What has been the impact of Marco Sturm since he took over as coach after the 2015 world championship?
A lot of it is his experience as a player, I mean he played in the the NHL from the time he was 18 or 19, so every player knows him and all of the Germans look up to him, just as they did to Uwe Krupp. He has a good relationship with some of Germany’s NHL players, with whom he has played or played against. So it is more attractive for the NHL guys to come over, because coming over at the end of an NHL season, when a player has already played 100 games, is a big ask.
In terms of the German team, there was a lot of excitement when Leon Draisaitl arrived from Canada on Saturday. How much of a difference-maker can he be for Germany?
Draisaitl will be a big difference-maker. Everybody, including the NHL players, who have played against him are like: “Oh man, this guy is really good!” So it doesn’t matter what league they are playing in. Everybody looks up to him and right then and there he’s going to be a leader. I mean he had 77 points in the regular NHL season and 16 points in 13 playoff games. He’s well on his way to becoming a legit top-10 NHL player right now!
Assuming Germany beat Latvia to advance to the quarterfinals, how far do you think they can go?
I’m afraid that the quarterfinals might be it. If they do win, Canada will be coming over to Cologne, which is good for Cologne because the people will get more good hockey. Canada will be really tough to beat. I am not saying beating Canada is impossible, because anything is possible, but that would be really tough.
John Tripp, born in Kingston, Ontario in 1977, played in the DEL (Germany’s top flight) for more than a decade and made 110 appearances for the German national team between 2006 and 2014. He played in the 2010 Winter Olympics and was part of the team that finished in fourth at the 2010 Ice Hockey World Championship, Germany’s greatest achievement in ice hockey since winning bronze at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. He also played 42 games in the NHL for the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. He is currently coach of the Crimmitschau Ice Pirates in DEL 2 and also works as a television analyst.
The interview was conducted by Chuck Penfold