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The Los Angeles Kings believed Eisbaren Berlin, the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) team owned by their parent company AEG, needed help. They saw an organization that had struggled the last several years and thought a change was needed to bring it back to prominence.
The team’s last championship came in 2012-13 and Eisbaren hadn’t made a league final since that season.
“They won seven championships in their first nine years that (AEG owner Phil Anschutz) owned them. The last few years it has not been up to par with the way the team has gotten – the results,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said.
So in February Kings announced they would pour more resources into the team in hopes they could kickstart Eisbaren. This type of closer partnership with an international team is rare in today’s NHL and one the Kings hope can pay dividends across all parts of their organization
“They’re in a situation where they’re very thin. Their assistant coach is their strength coach too. They have one trainer that’s like their physio trainer, but we have five,” Kings COO Kelly Cheeseman said. “There’s different resources so we can say, ‘How can we help this team to give them more resource, more ability to make decisions like more minds around them.’”
The Kings were somewhat involved with Eisbaren in the past but it was more at a cursory level according to Robitaille.
“We kind of decided that if we really want to do it right we can’t be a consultant. It should be that we’re helping them make decisions,” Robitaille said. “The people in Berlin are the ones making day-to-day decisions and so forth. Basically we have a board and we’re part of a board and we’re going to help them make the final decision as far as hockey-wise and that it should be done the right way.”
When the Kings went to Berlin to announce a closer partnership with Eisbaren, team senior advisor/development coach Mike O’Connell was also there. The hope is that he will play role in deepening the alliance. O’Connell was the general manager of the Boston Bruins for several years and has been involved with NHL hockey clubs for a long time.
“We’re saying, ‘How can we get them into our development model, our development camps? How can our trainers help each other? How can our strength coach help each other?” Cheeseman said.
The Kings also see this as a way to give another developmental outlet within their organization if some spots are full in the AHL or ECHL.
“Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about that and we talked a lot about that with the German media as well because that was a common question,” Cheeseman said. “I think as situations arise it gives us that opportunity so for example … typically we always have one goalie down in the ECHL in Manchester or in the AHL with Ontario, or we’ll have two kids that are aged out of juniors and they’re playing in Manchester rather than Ontario. We’ll now say, ‘Well, the German league is a higher quality of hockey, typically a little bit older players over there. We can get these guys over there and playing in a system that we trust.’ They’re a little bit tighter connected with us and we have that opportunity to do that.”
Said O’Connell to LA Kings Insider recently, “We’ve changed our involvement with them. More of an affiliate now.”
So far the Kings have moved some people around into different positions, but have yet to do anything major. Eisbaren lost in the semifinal this year, but the belief is they should start to make subtle gains beginning next season mostly.
“Our scouts that are going around the world and scouting players, the one thing we’re going to ask them now – they’re looking at players that can play for the Kings first to play in Ontario second and then we might ask them, ‘Hey, did you find any guys that could play in Berlin?’” Robitaille said. “And they’re going to help our team in Berlin to be better, which is not that much work for them, they just look at it at a different way.”
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