After a playing career involving 938 games in the NHL and representing Germany internationally for close to two decades, former Florida Panthers forward Marco Sturm was named Head Coach and General Manager of the German men's National Team on July 10, 2015.
“I was surprised,” said Sturm about receiving the news. “[Initially] It was more talk about being more of a GM for the big tournaments. I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be interested.’ They offered me both positions, GM and Head Coach. This is a really good opportunity for me.”
Playing his final NHL season for the Panthers during the team’s 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoff run, Sturm and his family settled down in South Florida, where he has been a part of the JR Panthers program at the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs for the past two years. It was during this time that Sturm, fresh off of retirement, realized that he had found a new passion in coaching.
“I noticed the last two years, when I was involved with the JR Panthers that it was something I love to do. I love coaching, I love teaching and it was a really good opportunity for me to start a coaching career.”
The highest-scoring German-trained player in NHL history (487 points), Sturm brings credibility and a wealth of top-level experience to the National Program. Team Germany has struggled in tournament play over recent years and did not qualify for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Sturm knows the task at hand is a process, but is confident that he can turn things around.
“Germany has had some tough times in the past, I’m glad to help,” said Sturm. “We noticed in the last few years, that some players were not available [for tournaments] and that just can’t happen. We have to build a better chemistry as a team, coaching staff and organization. That’s something I think I can definitely help with all of my connections, I’m still in that generation with players I played with a few years ago and still know a lot of [them] and I think that is definitely one area it’s going to help.”
Part of Germany’s mission will be to develop young talent. Leon Draisaitl, selected by the Edmonton Oilers third overall in 2014 is now the highest drafted German-trained player in NHL history. A top player in the Western Hockey League over the last two seasons, Draisaitl is familiar to Sturm, after playing with his father Peter Draisaitl at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
“His father was also a really good player,” said Sturm of the elder Draisaitl. “Similar actually to Leon, maybe not the fastest skater, but very smart and very strong on the puck.”
With young players like Draisaitl and Arizona Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder as potential leaders for Team Germany’s future, Sturm welcomes the idea of youth in the lineup.
“It’s really good to have,” he said. “We are really happy to have those young kids in the NHL and hopefully we continue with some other young ones. I’m definitely supportive. I’ll be in contact with those guys and see them, talk to them and help them also. If there’s time for World Championships or Olympic qualification, those young guys, we need them too. The next two years will be very important years for Team Germany.”
Although his new job is focused on Germany hockey, the Dingolfing, Germany native will still reside in sunny South Florida, but will return to his homeland for work regarding tournaments. With both of his children playing in the JR Panthers program, Sturm will still continue coaching at the Florida Panthers IceDen.
“I’ve absolutely loved it my last two years. Working with those kids I’ve seen a lot of improvement. It’s a lot of fun being around the IceDen. I want to continue to help those young kids grow.”
With a new-look front office and coaching staff in place for Team Germany, Sturm is excited, but knows it will be a team effort to make it work.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Sturm.
“With the new group in charge, we have changed a lot of things in a good way. But as we all know, it will take time. It’s a good start. I’m very happy to contribute with all of the work.