Friday 14th September is the date that all German ice hockey fans have been yearning for as the long summer break comes to an end and the new DEL season begins.
EHC Red Bull Munich have freshened up their squad replacing some of the old guard with a mix of youthful energy, high skill and goalscoring ability, while also keeping a good core from last season. They will be hoping to improve on last year's finishing position and push on into the play-offs, but the year should also be about bringing stability to the club after a last-minute deal with new title sponsors Red Bull, saved them from extinction.
With the retirement of Stéphane Julien, the captain's 'C' will be shared this year by local hero Martin Buchwieser and national team defenceman Felix Petermann.
The squad have been together for about a month now and have been playing a number of pre-season matches in order to gain match fitness, get to know each other and tighten up team tactics. There have been some positive displays while coach Pat Cortina tries to find the most effective line combinations. A narrow loss to Austrian champions Linz was followed by a tied 2 game series against Bavarian rivals Straubing and an impressive mini tournament victory in Hungary with wins over crack Czech side HC Vitovice and hosts Székesfehérvár.
There have been a few injury niggles in the team, but hopefully none are too serious and EHC Red Bull will be able to start their campaign with a clean bill of health. Their first game is a home match at the Olympia Eishalle on Sunday 16th September against Düsseldorf. Last season's matches against DEG were shared 2 games each, but DEG are a team who have undergone some major surgery during the off-season and have many changes to their roster after coach Jeff Tomlinson moved on to Nürnberg. They look to have assembled a powerful defence minded team, but I'm going to go for a narrow EHC victory by the odd goal in 5. Face-off is at 16:30 and all further information can be found on the official website.