Innsbruck ’76 : West Germans Just Want To Compete


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“Olympics Are Not Everything” reads the headline in blue as trainer XAVER UNSINN poses with the national team of West Germany just prior to the 1976 Winter Games at Innsbruck; although there are 23 players in the photograph above, contemporary Olympic rules only allowed for 18-man rosters for the ice hockey competiton in the Austrian Alps.
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The BUNDESREPUBLIK DEUTSCHLAND crossed the Alpine border into neighboring Austria and arrived at Innsbruck, intially, squarely focused on winning their qualification match and earning a place in the top tier for the ice hockey competition at the 1976 Winter Games. Indeed, the West Germans had not even skated in the A Pool at the 1972 Sapporo Games and had also failed to win the B Pool on home ice at the 1975 IIHF World Championships while losing to their ultimate arch-rival, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, by the decisive margin of 5-0 in Munich. A qualification game at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck with yet another neighbor to the south, Switzerland, looked favorable, though, and trainer XAVER UNSINN understood that anything, thereafter, was possible with neither Canada nor Sweden taking part at the Olympics this time.

Unforeseen, perhaps, was the influence that the elegant giant, 6’6″ center ERICH KUEHNHACKL, would impose on the proceedings for West Germany at Innsbruck. The titanic 25-year-old, who had led the domestic circuit by scoring 50 goals for EV Landshut during the 1973/74 season, would be deployed between Bundesliga teammate ALOIS SCHLODER, the 28-year-old team captain appearing at the Olympics for a third time in his career, and emerging 25-year-old RAINER PHILIPP of Vfl Bad Nauheim.

Significantly for the historically low-scoring West Germans, a second line also emerged to provide additional scoring punch in Austria. This unit comprised of a pair of players each competing at their third Winter Games, LORENZ FUNK and ERNST KOEPF, and ’72 Olympic holdover MARTIN HINTERSTOCKER — all skated for the national team trainer Unsinn with 1976 Bundesliga champion SC Berlin. The trio ended up leading West Germany by collectively scoring an average of two goals per game in the team’s six contests at the Olympiahalle in Innsbruck.

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RAINER PHILIPP, Vfl Bad Neuheim
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The 35-year-old Koepf had, of course, made his Olympic debut a dozen years earlier in the very same ice hockey arena when the city of Innsbruck hosted the Winter Games for the first time in 1964. Koepf had not appeared at an international tournament for West Germany since skating in the B Pool of the 1970 IIHF World Champinships but was recalled for the ’76 Innsbruck Olympics by his SC Berlin trainer. Unsinn, to review, had also been among the trio of coaches in charge of the last “Equipe unifee d’Allemagne” (Unified Team of Germany) squad at Innsbruck in 1964.

The West German defense was fortified by yet another set of three-time Olympic performers both hailing from EV Fuessen, the trainer Unsinn’s old club from his playing days. 31-year-old RUDOLF THANNER had six Bundesliga titles under his belt while 27-year-old JOSEF VOELK also counted four domestic championships, himself. Talented 20-year-old defender UDO KIESSLING of SB Rosenheim, the native East Geman whose father Gerd had already served as national team trainer on both sides of the notorious Berlin Wall, was appearing at the Winter Olympics for the first of what would be no less than five times.

ERICH WEISHAUPT, the 23-year-old former ESV Kaufbeuren netminder who was in his first year under Unsinn at SC Berlin, had cut his international teeth in between the pipes for West Germany at the 1975 IIHF World Championships on home soil. The trainer Unsinn also recalled the experienced ANTON KEHLE of EV Fuessen, a 28-year-old veteran of the ’72 Sapporo Games who had not appeared at an international event since the 1973 IIHF World Championships held in Moscow. As the Americans would find out soon enough at Innsbruck, the selection of Kehle to the ’76 Olympic squad would prove to be quite beneficial for the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

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Three-time Olympic defenseman RUDOLF “Rudi” THANNER of EV Fuessen represented the Federal Republic of Germany eleven times at international tournaments over the course of his career and would cap his final appearance at the Winter Games with a souvenir to string around his neck.
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FEDERAL REPUBLIC of GERMANY
1976 Olympic Ice Hockey Squad
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35 – FW – Ernst KOEPF ……………….. SC Berlin
30 – FW – Ferenc VOZAR …………….. SC Berlin
30 – FW – Wolfgang BOOS …………… EG Dusseldorf
28 – FW – Alois SCHLODER ………….. EV Landshut
28 – FW – Lorenz FUNK ……………….. SC Berlin
27 – FW – Walter KOEBERLE ………… EG Dusseldorf
25 – FW – Erich KUEHNHACKL ……….. EV Landshut
25 – FW – Rainer PHILIPP …………….. Vfl Bad Nauheim
21 – FW – Martin HINTERSTOCKER …. SC Berlin
21 – FW – Franz REINDL ………………. SC Riessersee

31 – DF – Rudolf THANNER …………… EV Fuessen
27 – DF – Josef VOELK ………………… EV Fuessen
24 – DF – Klaus AUHUBER …………….. EV Landshut
24 – DF – Stefan METZ ………………… SC Berlin
21 – DF – Ignaz BERDANER …………… SC Riessersee
20 – DF – Udo KIESSLING ……………… SB Rosenheim

28 – GK – Anton KEHLE ………………… EV Fuessen
23 – GK – Erich WEISHAUPT …………… SC Berlin

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The 1976 Winter Olympic Games at Innsbruck in Austria would prove to be the signature moment in the accomplished career of West Germany national team trainer XAVER UNSINN.

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