Pure joy: The German national team moves into the final after an overtime drama against the USA. After that, there was no stopping Maximilian Kastner (4th from right) and Co. © IMAGO/Eibner-Pressefoto / Birgit Haefner
Silver at the Ice Hockey World Championship with Germany, debut goal in the DEB jersey, underpants not packed enough, cooling off and team building in the lake: Maximilian Kastner has had eventful weeks.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Achieved history and at the same time missed history. It hasn't quite arrived in Maximilian Kastner's head yet. In an interview with the Tagblatt, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen native tells three times that he won gold with the German national ice hockey team at the World Championships. Each time he catches himself making a slip of the tongue and shakes his head. You know right away that he looks back on the past few days in Tampere (Finland) with one laughing and one crying eye. "It's probably going to take weeks before I've really closed the chapter," he admits.
Remarkable phrase from his son
After the final siren last Sunday, the DEB selection stood on the ice of the Nokia Arena with a blank look. 2:5 from a German point of view, over the dream that no one had dared to dream of before the World Cup. The feeling was "brutal" when Kastner and Co. had to watch as the Canadians were allowed to pick up their gold medals. "I was like, 'That could have been us.' But unfortunately, the ice hockey god decided otherwise." Even the words of captain Moritz Müller in the team circle shortly after everyone had been presented with their silver medals did not help. "He said we had made ice hockey Germany proud and won silver." But Kastner didn't want to hear it at that time. The sting was too deep that in the end it was not the German, but the Canadian national anthem that was played. At that moment, frustration buried pride like a hundredweight boulder. For the first time, Kastner's son was able to lift this burden. Immediately after the final, the 30-year-old picked up his cell phone and said that he had unfortunately lost. But the junior replied, 'You didn't lose, you won silver.' "Such a strong sentence from a three-and-a-half-year-old. That was the first time my mind switched."
High praise for national coach Harold Kreis
Now, little by little, pride struggles out from under the boulder and pushes it aside. Because even if it didn't turn out to be gold: After a 70-year dry spell, the German national team won a World Cup medal again. And today's one counts far more, as only four teams competed in the 1953 World Cup, which was described as a farce, and Czechoslovakia also broke off the tournament prematurely. In addition, silver is already an absolute sensation. Because the DEB selection did not travel in the supposed best line-up, many players canceled national coach Harold Kreis. And then they also botched the start against the three top teams from Sweden, Finland and USA – purely in terms of results. "The three feared defeats," Kastner calls them. But instead of bowing their heads, Germany played the other four group games with a broad chest. "We weren't worse in the first few games, sometimes even better, and we drew our energy from that." Nevertheless, the pressure was immense before the game against Denmark, everyone knew that it was a do-or-die game. Especially in such situations, the coach is in demand. And Kastner praises him completely. Kreis has managed to equip every player with confidence, no matter how long they have been on the ice. "You have to give Harry that, he did a great job throughout the tournament, gave every player a great feeling, always found the right words. I'd like to be able to do that too."
Kastner is enthusiastic about J. J. Peterka
Kreis's measure not to use top talent John-Jason Peterka in the final third against Austria also bore fruit. Kastner describes this decision as a "huge signal to the team". In the national team, you have to put your ego on the back burner. "If you can't do that, you're out of place." But Peterka could, recorded six goals and six assists and was rewarded with the title of best striker of the World Cup. "It's amazing, we can expect a lot more from him in the future," enthuses Kastner.
I think 36 games, but I don't want to know for sure."
Maximilian Kastner had to wait a long time for his first goal in a DEB jersey
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Kastner scored his first two goals for the DEB team at the World Cup. The 1-0 win against Switzerland in the quarter-finals was enormously important. © Salvatore Di Nolfi
The Garmisch-Partenkirchen native also scored two tournament goals. First, he scored in the final group clash with France, his first goal for the black-red-gold. He had to wait a long time for it, an unusually long time for a striker. "I think 36 games, but I don't want to know for sure," he admits with a laugh. He was much more pleased with the relevance of his second goal. In the quarter-finals, he scored the 1-0 against the favored Swiss. "They started like the fire brigade. But in doing so, we took the wind out of their sails."
Kastner's three World Cup moments
This was followed by Kastner's third World Championship moment. He described the game against Denmark and the 3-1 victory over the Swiss as a boost. Then came the semi-final drama against the USA. Kastner, who has always been on the ice with Marcel Noebles, has never played overtime for so long. After the third substitution, they both looked at each other on the bench and thought: "Okay, we don't have much left in the tank." But somehow the reserves never dried up. "You just live in the moment and enjoy playing against the USA in overtime in the World Cup semi-finals." And then came Frederik Tiffels' magical moment. "Probably everyone thought that he was playing the pass to Moritz Seider." But Kastner's now ex-teammate at EHC Red Bull Munich (Tiffels moves to Berlin) nailed the puck into the crease and sent Germany to the final. "When we all dashed onto the ice – it was pure emotion."
Cooling off in the lake and the light-heartedness among men
After that, however, it was time to calm the minds again. After all, a new goal was born – the World Championship gold. The lake in front of the hotel was the perfect place for the German team. In the water, which was about ten degrees warm, the Germans regenerated. To distract from the cold, they chatted "stupid stuff". But the ice bath was not only for recreation, "it welded us together as a team, as did the barbecue together". This was the only way the World Cup journey could go on for so long. And it was longer than many had planned. Nico Sturm, for example, ran out of socks, while Kastner ran out of underpants. "But we were among us boys. It doesn't matter if someone turns their underpants inside out four times," he says jokingly and has to laugh out loud.
Close to tears after the final
Complete emptiness: Kastner after the finale. © IMAGO/Kalle Parkkinen
He would have liked to turn the Canadians inside out. But despite leading twice, it was not enough to win the title. Annoys him all the more because Kastner describes every goal conceded as avoidable. "Everyone is more or less on our cap." The plug was finally pulled on him by the empty-net goal to make it 2-5. But then the final siren sounded and Kastner's gaze went blank. "At that moment, I was really close to tears." At the same time, he knows what he and his teammates have achieved. "We don't have anything to blame ourselves for and we've earned a chance to win this thing."
Two men's holidays for relaxation
He is now letting this idea mature. Two "men's vacations" are coming up, first he alone with his son in Mallorca, then with his buddies golfing on Lake Garda. He has earned it after a long season including the fourth DEL title with Munich and World Championship silver as the crowning glory. By the end of the holidays at the latest, Maximilian Kastner will have realised that he and the German national team have not missed out on history, but rather achieved something historic.