Christian Ehrhoff could play his second World Championship on home ice in Cologne next year. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
Ehrhoff talks Olympics, NHL, Worlds on home ice
German defenceman Christian Ehrhoff is more than ready to protect his goalie in Riga, and his wallet.
The men’s national team not making it to Sochi 2014, at the qualification tournament on home ice in Bietigheim-Bissingen, was kind of a national trauma for German hockey.
These days the future looks brighter with a strong team performance in Riga, seven NHLers on the roster and the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on home ice in Cologne (and co-hosted with Paris, France) on the horizon.
One of the most experienced stars on the black-red-gold team is Christian Ehrhoff. The defenceman does not only well defending his zone here in Riga but also his wallet. Grabbing a pickpocket near the team hotel who wanted to steal it, he put the criminal duo to flight.
On the ice it has been seemingly easy too for the German defence with two wins and an 11-0 goal record before the deciding game against host Latvia.
“We didn’t expect it like that but we also had a tough start in the games, were a bit nervous but luckily we scored the first goal in each of the two games and that calmed us down”, Ehrhoff says. “After that it worked better for us. Hopefully we can score the first goal against Latvia as well. That would be very important.”
Latvia, that’s an opponent he doesn’t play for the first time. Despite his long NHL career he represented Germany in six IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships and three Olympic Winter Games.
“It will be a full and loud arena here. They will battle hard as will we. We expect a hard and fast game and a tough fight. They have very talented forward who are great with the puck and skate well. That’s why we can hardly afford any mistakes on defence,” says Ehrhoff. He and his defensive colleague will be challenged in particular.
For Ehrhoff it could be a full calendar of international events this year with the World Cup of Hockey and the Worlds in Cologne, less than an hour’s drive away from the region he comes from with his place of birth Moers and Krefeld where he played his club hockey in Germany.
Today all focus will be on playing Latvia for a spot in PyeongChang 2018 but tomorrow the next adventure already starts as Ehrhoff will play for Team Europe at the World Cup.
“I think first of all that it will be a super event in Toronto with the best players in the world. It will also be a nice thing to play for Team Europe. It’s a team that has never played before with very good players and we want of course to come together as a team as fast as possible and then play a good tournament,” Ehrhoff says about the event. “I know some players from other countries with whom I’ve played together like for example Kopitar and Vanek.”
He’s looking forward to play together with these stars and get to know some more, especially Roman Josi. “At the moment he’s one of the best defencemen in the league. He’s a player it’ll be nice to watch at practice,” Ehrhoff adds.
Since his debut with the San Jose Sharks during the 2003/2004 season he has played 12 seasons in the National Hockey League, most recently for the Chicago Blackhawks after a trade in February with the Los Angeles Kings.
“My best times were with Vancouver where we reached the finals [in 2011] and where it went well for me personally. Apart from that I have many beautiful memories and a lot of good times,” he says about the highlights of his NHL career.
His future is not clear yet but he said he will decide after the World Cup.
“I try to present myself for a new job in the NHL there and at the end of the tournament I will decide about my future,” he said.
Among his best memories in hockey was also the year before reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Not so much losing in the second playoff round with the Canucks but more joining the German national team midway through the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship that was hosted in Cologne, Mannheim and Gelsenkirchen.
The Germans had a great playoff run edging archrival Switzerland 1-0 in a tough and emotional quarter-final battle before challenging the big nations for medals in Cologne.
The Germans outshot Russia in the first two semi-final periods and the game remained tied until two minutes before the end of the game when Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winner before 18,734 fans in Cologne. In the bronze medal game Germany lost 3-1 to Sweden but the players were perceived as heroes after the fourth-place finish – the best World Championship placement in 57 years and the best performance since Olympic bronze in Innsbruck 1976.
“We gelled together as a team and improved game-by-game. That was the secret, nothing more than that,” the 34-year-old looks back and becomes enthusiastic about the memories of 2010.
“To play a World Championship in front of your home crowd is very special. 2010 was our most successful Worlds and I remember it with pleasure. It was a great time and next year it will be a super event.”
With the 2017 Worlds being hosted in two attractive cities and two of Europe’s biggest indoor sporting venues, he can recommend fans to come for a visit anytime.
“Cologne has nice corners, above all the Cologne Cathedral that one should visit. It’s a beautiful city where you can do a lot,” he says.
Ehrhoff and many more in German hockey hope that the big event shared between Germany and France will bring hockey a step forward.
“The Worlds will hopefully bring another boost. In the last one, two years there were good markers set for the future, there were many changes to move German hockey forward and a World Championship can help a lot,” he says.
It speaks for itself that Ehrhoff hopes to be part of the team if he cans. All will depend on his situation in North America, for which NHL team he will play and how far they will make it.
“I’d of course love to be part, that’s clear,” he says.
But first all focus is on Latvia. The game starts at 18:00 local time (17:00 CET) and can be followed on the national broadcasters LTV7 and Sport1 in the two countries, and anywhere else on the live stream provided by the Olympic Channel.