Team Germany participated in twenty Olympic tournaments (in one of them, in 1968, with two teams – the GDR and the FRG), but only three times did they reach the podium. Their first bronze medal came in 1932, in Lake Placid, with only four teams competing. The bronze medal was contested between Germany and Poland, with the former winning both games, 2:1 and 4:1.
The second bronze medal, in 1976 in Innsbruck, came as a surprise even to the players themselves, who were convinced that they had beaten Team USA on the last day to take fourth place. The situation was such: following the USSR (10 points) and Czechoslovakia (6), three teams had four points each, and they defeated each other in the round-robin games: Finland – FRG 5:3, Finland – USA 4:5, USA – FRG 1:4. The goal difference was as follows: Finland (19-18 in the tournament and 9-8 in individual meetings), Germany (21-24 and 7-6), USA (15-21 and 6-8). However, the IOC decided to count only the goals scored. On this basis, the bronze flew to Germany, instead of Finland. As in 1932, two victories were enough for third place, and the second, ironically, was also over Poland.
After those medals (just as before, with the exception of 1932), Germany never rose above fifth place, and in 1988 and 2014, they did not even participate in the tournament, failing to qualify. However, the main achievement in the history of German hockey came right after the failure in 2014. In South Korea, Germany finished only third in the group, beating Norway in OT and losing to Sweden and Finland. In the playoffs, the music was different. Team Germany defeated Switzerland and Sweden, again in OT, and Canada in regulation time, in a hard-fought battle (4:3), almost giving up a 3-0 lead. In the final, the Germans were twice behind, and as the buzzer approached the went up again, but Nikita Gusev sent the game into OT in the last minute, and Kirill Kaprizov converted a near certain gold for Germany into silver.
Finn Toni Soderholm spent almost his entire pro playing career in his home country, with occasional breaks to Switzerland and Sweden. However, he had a last dance in Germany, became the DEL champion there, and settled in Munich. Since 2016 he worked as an assistant in the U18 and U20 national teams, and since 2019, he headed the senior national team. He had his debut at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, finishing sixth; the next season the tournament was not held because of the pandemic, and in 2021 he reached the semifinals.
Der Startpfiff für unsere deutsche Herren-Nationalmannschaft und ihre Vorbereitung in Mannheim auf die Olympischen Winterspiele 2022 ist gefallen #deb #nationalmannschaft #wirfürD pic.twitter.com/D875RokNg9— Deutscher Eishockey-Bund (@deb_teams) January 31, 2022
Marcel Noebels and Dominik Kahun are likely to set the tone for Team Germany’s offense. Noebels has been awarded best hockey player in the German DEL two seasons in a row and is averaging more than a point per game for the second consecutive year. He’s third on the scoring race this season (16+29 in 39 games), just behind two North Americans (Jason Akeson and Matt White). And Kahun, who not too long ago played in Chicago with Jonathan Tawes and Patrick Kane in the first line, is having an excellent season in Switzerland (13+28 in 37 games).
Korbinian Holzer, who spent half of last season with Avtomobilist, will be a pillar on defense for Team Germany.
Team Germany is equipped with three roughly equivalent goalies: Matthias Niederberger was excellent in last year’s World Championship in Riga, Danny aus den Birken was one of the heroes of the last Olympics (and was named best goalie of the tournament), and Felix Bruckmann was the best in the domestic league last season and is still the leader in the goals-against average.
The defense is filled with hard-hitting players like Holzer; there are only two true offensive blueliners and they're the exact opposite of each other: Konrad Abeltshauser is a playmaker (3+17 in 35 games this season) and Marcel Brandt is more of a goalscorer (10+7 in 34 games). Marco Nowak has similar stats to Abelzhauser (only 36 games), but he started enjoying playing a more offensive style only in his 32 years.
If all the goalies and defesemen represent the German DEL, there are four forwards from other leagues (Brooks Macek of Avtomobilist didn’t find a place among them). Other than the aforementioned Kahun, attention should be paid to Tom Kunkhackl – the son of a German hockey legend, and Tobias Rieder. Both currently play in Sweden, and they have some 800 combined games at the NHL level. As for the domestic forwards, the first names to be followed are Leo Pfoderl and Matthias Plachta.
The main Team Germany’s weapons are efficiency and chemistry. There are no debutants on the team at all; almost half (11 players) have past Olympic experience, while the rest have played at the IIHF World Championship level. Gradually, the Germans have become a force to be reckoned with, and sometimes even feared. However, this could complicate things: after all, it’s somewhat easier to advance as a dark horse than as a contender. So, a repeat of the march to the finals as in South Korea is unlikely, but the semifinals are achievable for Team Germany.