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Hecht Plays in Game of Hearts

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres

August 11, 2006

by Brian Wheeler

A six-year professional in the National Hockey League and one of the best two-way players in hockey, Jochen Hecht can compete with pretty much anybody on the ice.

But put him on a soccer field and the six-foot-one, 200-pound left-winger is way out of his element.

Hecht found out first hand what professional soccer could be like when he competed in Michael Schumacher's "Game Of Hearts" in Germany last month.

Schumacher, the equivalent of Wayne Gretzky in F-1 Racing, created the charity soccer game six years ago to benefit Unesco-Stiftung, roughly translated as "formation for children in need." The full-day event features the game and a player's banquet that raises an annual sum of $150,000 EURO (approximately $193,000 USD) for the charity.

"Michael Schumacher is probably the most known athlete in Germany and is a very good soccer player," Hecht said. "All the people come to see him play. It was great to get to know him and all the other celebrities."

Two teams comprised of former professional soccer players and German entertainers compete in Carl Benz Stadium in Mannheim each year in front of a capacity crowd of 25,000 prior to the Formula-1 German Grand Prix.

Included on the roster this season was actor Til Schweiger, who has appeared in such movies as Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, King Arthur, Driven and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

"It was exciting to play in a different sport in front of such a big crowd and against some of the best athletes that Germany has to show for," said Hecht from his home in Mannheim. "It was for great cause and everybody had a lot of fun."

Hecht was invited to participate in the game by his former junior coach of the Mannheim Eagles. Having played once before years ago, Hecht agreed to be a participant even though his soccer experience was limited to pick-up games with his friends as a youth.

"It was tough," joked Hecht, who has never played organized soccer. "I didn't know what I was doing out there and wasn't used to all the situations."

Things got even worse for Hecht went head-to-head with experienced players.

"If you go up against the former professional soccer players, they can make you look stupid, like they did to me a couple of times," said Hecht. "Its kind of funny to be in a role where you are not an equal to the other players you are competing against."

But regardless of his lack of experience, Hecht was proud to be a part of an event that does so much good for the children of Germany.
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