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Germans eager to play for Team Europe at World Cup

Five will compete for team that has players from eight countries

by Adam Steiss / NHLPA.com

Unlike the two previous editions of the World Cup of Hockey, Germany won't have its own team when the 2016 tournament begins in Toronto on Sept. 17.

Instead, five Germans will play for Team Europe, which is comprised of Europe-born players from countries other than the Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and Finland. Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Seidenberg, forwards Leon Draisaitl and Tobias Rieder, and goalie Thomas Greiss will be in Quebec City for training camp, which starts on Sept. 5. Slovakia, with six, is the only nation with more players on the team.

Ehrhoff and Seidenberg are the only returnees from Germany's 2004 World Cup team, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Germany also was knocked out in the quarterfinals in 1996.

Coach Ralph Krueger and his staff will have less than two weeks to get players from eight countries to mesh before Team Europe plays its first game Sept. 17 against Team USA.

Ehrhoff said putting players from eight European nations on one team will make for a more competitive entry in the World Cup.

"I thought it was a good idea to put another competitive team together," Ehrhoff said. "It's just a fact that some of these nations wouldn't be as competitive if they were by themselves. So to put another good team like Team Europe into the tournament, I thought it was a good idea.

"Hockey players are very proud and very competitive athletes. Even though we are not representing our own country, we still will fight for the team and represent Team Europe well."

Four of the five German players will come to camp after taking part in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Riga, Latvia, from Sept. 1-4 that also includes Japan, Austria and Latvia. Greiss is the only one of the five who is not playing in Riga.

Then it's off to Quebec for training camp. Team Europe plays its first pretournament game against Team North America in Quebec on Sept. 8 and has three more tuneup games before its World Cup opener.

Krueger, who played seven seasons in Germany's top league during the 1980s, feels the five players on Team Europe's roster will illustrate the progress German hockey has made.

"I believe that the present generation of German players is the best yet," Krueger said. "The speed, skill level and tactical understanding of the game is at a very high level. They should be able to re-establish themselves as a top-eight nation in the next few years."

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Draisaitl, a 20-year-old center with the Edmonton Oilers who's at the forefront of the new generation of German players, can't wait to get started.

"It's always special," he said. "As a young kid, you want to play for the national team and represent your country. With Team Europe, I think the World Cup is as big of a stage as there is in world hockey, and I feel really good to be a part of it."

Draisaitl also is confident that Germany's style of play should fit well within Team Europe's structure.

"I think it's really a team-first game with us," he said. "We have guys that know their roles and guys that lay it out and put in everything they have for the team. That's how we played at the [IIHF World Championship] and how we had success there, and with that comes the skill that certain players bring to our team that complements it."

Draisaitl is particularly excited to play with one player on Team Europe.

"I've always said that I try to model my game after Anze Kopitar," he said of the Los Angeles Kings center from Slovenia, "so I'm really excited to play on the same team with him."

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