Harold Kreis was already proudly wearing the association pin with the DEB logo on his jacket when the German-Canadian was presented as the new national ice hockey coach in a Munich hotel.
In the final phase of his long coaching career and at the ripe old age of 64, the former German national player and former assistant to national coach Uwe Krupp has one of his heart's desires fulfilled.
"It is a great pleasure and honor for me, which I will approach with a lot of ambition, respect and humility," said Kreis. His former defender colleague and current Vice President of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB), Andreas Niederberger (59), immediately announced the "next goals" for the three contract years agreed with Kreis on the "very good day" on the podium. These are: "Reaching the quarter-finals" at the next World Cup from May 12th to 28th in Finland and Latvia as well as direct qualification for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Goals "quite realistic"
Kreis heard the specifications two places next to Niederberger without moving. "We have taken note of the association's goals," he said. However, they are "quite realistic", remarked the veteran coach, but held back on a concrete statement about his own goals. In any case, he wants to continue the successful path of recent years under Marco Sturm (44) and Toni Söderholm (44) with his future assistant coach Alexander Sulzer (38). "The team has developed very well over the years," Kreis praised the younger predecessors.
Captain Moritz Müller said that the signing of Kreis and Sulzer was very well received by players. "They both stand for a high level of quality," said the longtime leader (36) of the German Press Agency. When asked if he had any doubts that the successful path of the national team of the predecessors Söderholm and Sturm could be continued, Müller replied: "It's too early to say that, from the human side I'm not worried." In any case, he could say that it was always difficult to play against the teams trained by Kreis.
Although he is generally viewed as a defensive strategist, as national coach Kreis wants to form an "active" and "play-seeking" style of ice hockey. What he hates is being unpunctual. He doesn't like wasting time. "I get down to business quickly," he described his quite hands-on manner. He described his character as "determined, patient, balanced."
DEB sports director Christian Künast (51) reported that the Kreis/Sulzer duo “very quickly turned out to be the top candidates” when it came to the successor plan for the Finn Söderholm, who migrated to SC Bern in November. Both exuded "a passion" for ice hockey, praised the former goalkeeper.
In the DEB outfit, like when he was introduced, Kreis will initially no longer be seen. Because he remains head coach of the Schwenninger Wild Wings in the German Ice Hockey League until the end of the season. Only 24 hours before his presentation in Munich, he was in the Black Forest in the home win of the ninth table against Bremerhaven. Kreis and Sulzer, assistant coaches in Bremerhaven, were still opponents. Now they become DEB partners. Sulzer was "immediately hooked" on this.
Elaborate double function
Kreis knows that he will have a lot of "extra work" in his dual function as club coach and national coach. But he will only now be making intensive contact with the national players, including NHL professionals such as Leon Draisaitl (27) and Moritz Seider (21). Sports director Künast will embark on a long-planned trip to North America in March - without a circle - to speak to the top German players there.
"But Harry can also get in touch with you immediately. He doesn't need my Go for that," ex-goalkeeper Künast remarked with a smile. Kreis only really starts as national coach after the last game with Schwenningen, as he himself emphasized. The preparation for the World Cup begins at the beginning of April - then the playoff semi-finals are running in the DEL.