International Ice Hockey Federation

No place like home

No place like home

Cologne experience special for Sharks

Published 12.05.2017 20:58 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
No place like home
Moritz Muller is focused during a face-off. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Playing at a home World Championship is always special. Doing it in your club's home arena is even better. Just ask Germany's Philip Gogulla and Moritz Muller.

The atmosphere at Germany's games in this competition has been electric. Despite the host nation's well-known passion for soccer, Cologne's LANXESS Arena has been filled to the rafters with 18,000 hockey fans getting behind their heroes in this year's World Championship.

The noise, especially when die Mannschaft clawed back a two-goal deficit to beat Slovakia, has been incredible, the sense of occasion unmistakable. For several players on the German roster - Christian Ehrhoff, Moritz Muller, Philip Gogulla and Patrick Hager - the Cologne experience is a familiar one. That quartet plays its club hockey for Kolner Haie, the Cologne Sharks, in Germany's DEL.

According to Muller, defenceman and assistant captain for Team Germany, World Championship play has taken a great atmosphere and made it into something even bigger.

"It is special. It feels a little different than the usual home games here and I like that feeling," he said. "For a moment I almost forget that I'm in my home town, it really feels like the whole nation is behind us."

Gogulla, likewise, is enjoying the ambience. Born in nearby Dusseldorf, he's spent almost all of his career with the Sharks and rates the local fans among the best in Europe.

"This is a real home tournament for me," he said. "It's always fun to be part of team Germany but right now this is an unbelievable feeling and it's something we have to enjoy and make the most of. This is a special moment in my career.

"The crowds are always good in Cologne. Everyone knows that soccer is the biggest sport in Germany, and that's true in Cologne as well. But when we play here in the DEL we always have 12 or 14,000 fans. It's one of the best fan cultures in Europe.

"Cologne fans are special, the city is special to me, and I'm really enjoying this tournament."

Home ice advantage is also helping the team. An opening day victory over the USA set the tone, with Gogulla and Hager combining to delight their home crowd on the game-winning goal. And now hopes are high for at least a quarter-final place.

"This atmosphere really helps us when we're out on the ice," Gogulla added. "We've beaten two of the top nations, the USA and the Slovakians, so now we have a real chance to get to the quarter final."

Both Muller and Gogulla were part of the German roster that reached the last eight in Russia a year ago. A home tournament can bring heightened expectations, but years of playing for one of Europe's best-supported clubs means that pressure is nothing new.

"Look at this arena," said Muller. "We've got 18,500 seats, it's not a small rink. That brings big expectations. We have a huge club here in Cologne, one of the biggest in Europe, so there's always something going on."

Of course, not every fan at these championships is a Cologne native. With rest days coming up at the end of the group phase, there's a chance to explore life away from the arena - although Gogulla admits it's not easy to choose from the many attractions in town.

"It's tough to pick out any one thing because it's such a big city and there's so much to see and do," he said. "I guess everyone has to see the Kolner Dom, and I'm sure hockey fans won't want to miss out on a few beers in a Brauhaus or two. But I'm sure everyone will enjoy the city."


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