No master from the Rhineland for 20 years

HElmut de Raaf was there too. And Dieter Hegen, whom everyone here just calls “Didi”. That was on Saturday, when the old ice rink on Brehmstraße experienced another great evening. Semi-finals of the U-17 championship between Düsseldorfer EG and Kölner Junghaien, hundreds of fans came to cheer on the young ice hockey players.

It was a bit like back in the 90s when de Raaf held pucks in the back and Hegen shot them into the goal in front. Alt beer song, sparklers, red and yellow knit sweaters and in the end a victory for DEG. She lost the final against Mannheim the next day, but hardly anyone was on the ground because of it.

A few kilometers up the Rhine, you can also look back on a successful season. Not only did the Cologne U-17s make it to the semi-finals, the U-20s also played their first final game in Berlin, which they lost after extra time. The second game of the series will take place in Cologne on Saturday. The hall has long been sold out.

No master from the Rhineland for 20 years

Those who are only rudimentarily involved with ice hockey will now see this as standard. Cologne and Düsseldorf play for titles? What else? The reality is different – at least for the professionals. The Rhineland has not provided an ice hockey champion for 20 years, in 2021 the play-offs took place completely without the Rhenish teams for the first time since their introduction in 1980/81, and the Krefeld penguins also watched as the rest of the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) looked around contested the championship. And this year it doesn’t look much better for the NRW clubs. Krefeld is last, the Iserlohn Roosters are third from last, and the Kölner Haie are also out of the play-off places shortly before the end of the main round.

Only in Düsseldorf is there a good mood – although the DEG was considered a problem child before the first season since 2006, in which the DEL is again looking for a sporty relegation team. One has to assume that “we cannot keep some top performers,” said managing director Harald Wirtz in the summer when he announced a rigorous austerity course.