A few years back I was able to visit a long-time friend whose husband was playing professional hockey in Germany. At the time he was playing in Munich for EHC Red Bull München (Munich.) While I had no idea what to expect, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Yes, I also got to take part in the original Oktoberfest. But, this was an authentic, non-touristy German experience. The two games I watched were lively and fairly easy to follow (as a non-German speaking person.) So, if you find yourself in Bavaria, I highly recommend catching a game.
But first, here are five things you need to know;
1. The basics– The Red Bulls are a part of the professional German hockey league known as, Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League). There are 14 teams within the league. However, the team may also compete in some sort of in-season tournament(s). Comparable to English soccer, the team may play a DEL team and then play an international team.
2. Great environment– I would be remiss if I didn’t first talk about the environment. I felt like I was at a American MLS game. Each team had a group of fans who stood on opposite sides of the ice and cheered the entire time. In fact, they didn’t even have seats. Instead, they had bars in front of each row for fans to hold on to. Several fans waved flags with great pride, as they chanted in unison with the rest of die hards.
3. Food and drinks- Imagine the best beer and pretzel you could get at any sports game in the US, and double that in goodness. Since I was in the land of Oktoberfest, it was no surprise how much beer was sold during the game. The Red Bulls were (and still are) sponsored by Hacker Schorr, so that was the beer of choice. No Coors or Budweiser in sight. If beer is not your thing, then indulge in the warm pretzels! They are served cut like a sandwich and with butter oozing out of the sides.
4. Different dimensions- Munich’s rink, as well as many other international rinks are considerably wider than a typical NHL rink. According to Sports Feel Good Stories, an NHL rink is 200 x 85 ft., while an international rink is 197 x 98.4 ft. Wider ice can open up the game, making it faster, more creative and with less hits. Which brings me to…
5. Less physical- Another large difference is the physicality. If you go to games to see fights, then German hockey may not be for you. The rules of fighting were similar to those of the NHL, but players seemed to keep it clean. Instead the player’s tended to be more focused on creativity, game flow, and puck movement.
I’m sure there are plenty of other differences, but those are my top five takeaways. Have you been to an ice hockey game abroad? Let me know in the comments!