The modest KUNSTEISSTADION IM SAHNPARK, an ice arena in eastern Germany that is not even fully enclosed and is mostly a standing-room-only arrangement with very few actual fixed seats about the facility, must seem to be at least a million miles away from the National Hockey League, to speak nothing of the luxurious Wells Fargo Center (which can accomodate roughly 20,330 spectators including some in standing-room-only sections) on Broad Street in South Philly, for second divison club Eispiraten Crimmitschau’s new signing WAYNE SIMMONDS.
Of course, up until the time the locked-out Philadelphia Flyers forward with the new, six-year contract that is worth a total of $ 23.8 million dollars was six years old growing up in the Canadian city of Toronto, the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark on the northwestern outskirts of Crimmitschau was an outdoor arena that had no roof whatsoever.
CIRCA 1993 — The eastern German town of Crimmitschau’s open-air KUNSTEISSTADION IM SAHNPARK ……. (photo courtesy of : www.89-90.sachsen.de/Sachsen_im_Blick.html)
Like almost all ice rinks throughout the countryside in the history of the by gone Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark in Crimmitschau was an open-air sports facility which had absolutely no covering from nature’s elements for either players or spectators, alike, from the time it was originally constructed in 1964.
This did not stop the national ice hockey team of the old D.D.R. from staging ten senior “A” international matches at the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark up until 1970 (when the full effects of the infamous “Leistungssportbeschluss” kicked in).
The history of ice hockey in the town of Crimmitschau actually stretches back to 1927. By the decade of the 1960s, EINHEIT CRIMMITSCHAU (the word “einheit”, or “unity”, tips off that the club were officially sponsored by the East German government’s administrative apparatus) were a fairly strong team that normally finished third in the domestic elite division (Oberliga) and won the Deutscher Eislauf Verband Pokal (the old East German Cup, an annual single-elimination competition) in 1966, 1967 and 1970. Einheit Crimmitschau also contributed a few contemporary players to the D.D.R. national team including goaltender PETER “The White Mask” KOLBE, who earned a permanent place in international ice hockey history by saving 73 of 74 shots when East Germany astonishingly knocked off Sweden 4-1 at the 1966 IIHF World Championships held in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.
CIRCA 1984 — EINHEIT CRIMMITSCHAU and MONSATOR BERLIN battle at the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark during the annual competition known as “Die DDR Bestenermittlung” (basically, this was the East German second division that used to be known as the “Gruppenliga” before the great reorganization of ice hockey that accompanied the transformative Leistungssportbechluss decree of 1969) ….. Einheit Crimmitschau won the title of “DDR-Bester” (the de facto second division championship competing underneath the two-team Oberliga) in 1971, 1972, 1974 as well as 1980 and also finished “2.Platz” another ten times up until such time as the tournament was discontinued in 1990 ….. (photo courtesy of : www.lotok.de/ost-eishockey/bestenerm.htm)
Up until this week, the “big” capture for German 2.Bundesliga club EISPIRATEN CRIMMITSCHAU on the transfer market this off-season summer had been the addition of Canadian legionnaire DARCY CAMPBELL, the 28-year-old journeyman rearguard who had appeared in all of exactly one National Hockey League game for the Columbus Blue Jackets at the tail end of the 2006/07 campaign after concluding his college career at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and later had spells in Finland with TPS Turku as well as Czech Republic side HC Slavia Prague.
But that status certainly was challenged soon enough …
“TRANSFER OF THE CENTURY” — With the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark featured prominently in the background, the club officials of 2.Bundesliga side EISPIRATEN CRIMMITSCHAU introduce a pair of former first round picks at the annual National Hockey League Draft, Philadelphia Flyers winger WAYNE SIMMONDS (third from left) and St. Louis Blues forward CHRIS STEWART (third from right), to the German media during a press conference in Saxony.
The can be little question that arrival of two NHL-Cracks is expected to have an enormous impact on Eispiraten Crimmitschau not only on the ice for trainer FABIAN DAHLEM’s side in the 2.Bundesliga but in terms of attracting people in significant numbers to the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark (capacity : 5,222 spectators), as well.
Eispiraten Crimmitschau have not done so well at the gate in recent seasons. As a matter of fact, last season marked the first time since the 2007/08 campaign that the Saxon club were able to exceed an average attendance of two thousand people per ice hockey contest :
2011/12 … 2,110 avg … 28 games
2010/11 … 1,832 avg … 28 games
2009/10 … 1,982 avg … 29 games
2008/09 … 1,994 avg … 24 games
2007/08 … 2,782 avg … 29 games
2006/07 … 2,386 avg … 30 games
(Note : attendance averages reflect figures for both regular season and playoff contests with respect to any given season)
Crimmitschau, by the way, just so happens to be the birthplace of German hockey legend UDO KIESSLING, who, among many other things, holds the distinction of being the very first player trained in Deutschland to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean and skate in a National Hockey League game; the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame defenseman’s father Gerhard is the only man in history who ever held the titles of national team trainer for both the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) and the old D.D.R. (not at the same time, naturally).
The upper right hand corner of the picture reveals the open-air section of the ice arena as Eispiraten Crimmitschau trainer FABIAN DAHLEM is flanked by the two history-making signings of the 2.Bundesliga club, locked-out National Hockey League players CHRIS STEWART of the St. Louis Blues (left) and WAYNE SIMMONDS (right) of the Philadelphia Flyers, at the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark in the Saxony region of eastern Germany.
The Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark in the eastern German town of Crimmitschau, which did not feature a canopy or roof of any kind until the year 1994, still to this day has exactly 187 fixed seats throughout the entire ice arena. This even after a few different renovation projects completed after the reunification of Germany, including the work on the arena facility that was just finished in 2010. The rest of the official capacity for 5,222 spectators is reserved for those hearty souls who are willing to stand throughout an entire second division ice hockey contest.
Exactly how many Eishockey-Fans show up at the Kunsteisstadion im Sahnpark on Friday to watch Canadian legionnaires and current NHL refugees WAYNE SIMMONDS and CHRIS STEWART make their German debut for Eispiraten Crimmitschau in an early-season 2.Bundesliga contest against regional Saxon rival LAUSITZER FUECHSE remains to be seen.