Archive for D.D.R. national team

Philadelphia Flyer Player At Art Ice Stadium In The Sahn Park


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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.

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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)
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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.

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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)
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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 …

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“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.
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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).

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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.
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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.

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East Germans Absent As Ordered


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German Democratic Republic attacker HARTMUT NICKEL (right) of SC Dynamo Berlin slips the puck past Norway goaltender JORNA GOLDSTEIN (19) to score the Deutsche Demokratische Republik’s third goal of the international friendly match at the modest Sportforum in the Hohenschoenhausen section of East Berlin during the 6-2 East German triumph over the visiting Scandinavians on March 17, 1974.
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It is interesting to note that had the DEUTSCHE DEMOKRATISCHE REPUBLIK not adopted the fateful LEISTUNGSSPORTBESCHLUSS policy in 1969, as it stood, the surprise withdrawl of Sweden would have created a most sensational, all-German match-up in the Olympic qualification round to be played just prior to the Opening Ceremonies for the Games of the XII Winter Olympiad at Innsbruck.

The format for the Olympic tournament to be held in the Austrian Alps called for the top eleven teams as per the standings at the annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships as well as the host nation to be invited. As a result of having won the B Pool of the 1975 IIHF World Championships in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the East Germans were entitled to claim the sixth spot in the seedings. This would have produced a meeting with the seventh-highest ranked team, which just so happened to be West Germany.

But such a dramatic contest was not to be as, for a second consecutive time as a direct result of the wishes of those at the very highest level of the country’s government, the German Democratic Republic could not be bothered to enter an ice hockey squad at the Winter Olympic Games.

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The DEUTSCHER TURN UND SPORTBUND, the umbrella organization for all sports in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, issued the so-called Lestungssportbeschluss directive with the full blessing of the ruling S.E.D. Politburo in the spring of 1969. This new policy completely re-organized the entire structure of sport nationwide and classified each and evey athletic discipline as belonging to either the “Sport 1″ or “Sport 2″ category. The main criteria used to differentiate between the two, of course, revolved around the Olympic Games — the Sport 1 class was to be exclusive for athletic pursuits which offered the most Olympic medals and likelihood of winning such for the greater glory of the D.D.R.

A premium was placed on individual sports such as speed skating, swimming as well as track and field, just to name a few, because in this way it was possible for just one single athlete to accumulate multiple medals. This as compared to other team sports, which required many players to generate just one medal in the all-important Olympic standings and often, as in the examples of ice hockey or water polo, also necessitated special equipment and/or facilities with all the accompanying, higher operating costs. Not surpringsly given the stated objective of the Leistungssportbeschluss, team sports were specifically targeted for Class 2 status.

Those sports not placed into the top tier saw their funding from the state either radically reduced or eliminated entirely. Furthermore, the second class athletic pursuits would also be critically denied access to to East Germany’s elaborate, well-developed youth sports system and, thus, all of the country’s most promising athletic talent. Worst of all, the decision handed down was final.

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After serving as Chairman of the Staatlichen Komitees fuer Koerperkultur und Sport (State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport) from 1952 until 1960, the then-35-year-old MANFRED EWALD was appointed President of the Deutscher Turn and Sportbund (German Gymnastics and Sports Association) in the following year; in 1963, Ewald became a member of the Central Committee of the S.E.D. — the all-powerful Politburo — and ten years later was installed as the President of the East German National Olympic Committee.

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Grenoble ’68 : Solitary East-West Struggle

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Action from the only Olympic ice hockey meeting ever between the two Germanys, East and West.

The East Germans occasionally wore red as as opposed to their customary blue when assigned the dark jerseys in international competition. 

Perhaps as a symbol of solidarity with their communist brethren from the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic appeared in their alternate uniforms for the final day game with the Federal Republic of Germany at the Grenoble Games in 1968.

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Although the two sides had played several times prior to contest Olympic participation in addition to regular meetings at the annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Championshps, as in the case of soccer’s World Cup, there was only ever one match between East and West Germany at the Winter Olympics.

The two nations, who did not formally recognize each other’s existance politically, met on the last day of competition at the Winter Olympics in 1968.

Always a big deal to the boys down at the propaganda ministries competing for hearts and minds, the meeting in the French Alps took on added significance for both East and West as a battle to avoid the basement at the ice hockey tournament of the Grenoble Games.

Each team stepped onto the ice at LE STADE DE GLACE having lost their first six games of the 1968 Olympics. The West Germans had been outscored 37-9 while the East Germans racked up a deficit of 44 goals conceded versus eleven goals scored.

Momentum might have been on the side of East Germany, who had decisively defeated the Federal Republic 8-1 at the 1967 IIHF World Championships in Vienna.

It was the Federal Republic, however, who registered the only goal of the first period in Grenoble and built a 3-1 lead after two periods. The East Germans, in an effort to stimulate the squad, changed goaltenders for the third period. To no avail as it turned out; each team added another goal and West Germany, who held a 31-21 shot-on-goal advantage, skated off 4-2 winners.

LORENZ FUNK, GUSTAV HANIG, PETER LAX and LEONHARD WAITL were the West German goal-scorers — LOTHAR FUCHS and BERND HILLER replied for East Germany in the historic match.

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Government Gutted East German Program

The national ice hockey team of EAST GERMANY earned the right to participate at both the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympic Games. On each occasion, the East German authorities declined to field a representing team. Above, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik on their final appearance at a major international event --- the A pool of the 1985 IIHF World Championships in Prague.

The national ice hockey team of EAST GERMANY earned the right to participate at both the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympic Games. On each occasion, the East German authorities declined to field a representing team. Above, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik on their final appearance at a major international event --- the A pool of the 1985 IIHF World Championships in Prague.

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The communist government of the German Democratic Republic never made any secret of its extreme desire for athletic success at the Olympic Games in full view of a world-wide audience.

As part of a conscious effort to use sport as a forum to promote political ideology, the East German officials were very much concerned with the total medal count and the overall medal standings at both the Summer as well as Winter Games.

Perhaps in part spurred on by the last place finish of their team at the 1968 Grenoble Games in France, it was decided in 1970 by the powers that be in East Germany to de-emphasize the discipline of ice hockey.

The entire league structure of East German domestic hockey was radically altered with just TWO teams — Dynamo Berlin and Dynamo Weisswasser — being left to contest the elite level championship continuously amongst themselves.

Seven team were placed in the “first” division with another sixteen clubs arranged in two second division groups. Furthermore, many players and coaches were re-assigned to either the figure or speed skating disciplines. Thereafter, significantly, only the two elite Dynamo clubs were permitted to operate youth ice hockey development programs.

The official explanation for the gutting of East German ice hockey manifested itself in a two-pronged attack on the sport. The first reason cited for the de-funding of ice hockey was the East Germans’ supposed unrealistic chances of winning medals at the Winter Olympic Games.

What’s more, the line of thinking went, the sport of ice hockey had many games but generated just one possible medal at the Olympics whereas speed skating, in contrast, had several different events with multiple medals at stake for the overall total standings.

And, an ice hockey team required 18 players in order to produce just one medal whereas, for example, more than one East German speed skater could potentially medal in the same event.

The second justification for the intentional crippling of what was a developing ice hockey program was economics. Ice hockey was determined to be too expensive to maintain and grow. Most of the East Germans’ equipment was imported since attempts at domestic manufacturing had failed. In addition, it was decided that more rinks would be required in the country to be expand the game nationally and remain competitive on the world stage. Plus, in direct cost analysis, a far-greater amount of money was required to equip an individual hockey player as compared to a speed skater, plain and simple.

After the radical re-organzation of its ice hockey program, the German Democratic Republic continued to send teams to the annual IIHF World Championships and, amazingly enough, somehow managed to make several appearances at the A pool tournament. 

But, after 1970, East Germany enacted a self-imposed boycott of the Winter Olympic Games that endured until its very last days.

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