Yeso The two coaches did not completely agree when they met after the start of the semi-final series between the Fischtown Pinguins. Bremerhaven and the EHC Red Bull Munich were at the microphone of “Magentasport”. While Munich's Toni Söderholm saw a match in which Bremerhaven was “in control”, Thomas Popiesch saw it differently. Although his team “did a lot of good at the beginning,” especially when they had the majority, “later both teams had their actions. “We just scored the goals at the right times.”

This was a very peculiar view of this first semi-final, which Bremerhaven won 3-0. But underestimation is part of the North Sea coast team's business model. They can even dominate the defending champions and the Germans are just three wins away from the final. ice Hockey League (DEL), no one in Bremerhaven is prone to public enthusiasm. Even the fact that the Pinguins finished the main round first in the standings and won the quarterfinals against Ingolstadt 4-0 has not changed anything.

“Small versus big”

However, Bremerhaven's opinion is not entirely unfounded. The Penguins are regulars in the play-offs since their promotion in 2016, but have never won there. So they still make them out to be a surprise team. Economically they are far from being at the top.

And they are not the only “little ones” who make it to the final four this season. In the other semifinal they demand Straubing The Tigers beat the record champion Eisbären Berlin, unfortunately losing the first match on Sunday with 1:3, but they were not the worst team.

When the second of a maximum of seven matches arrives this Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m. on Magentasport), the Bavarians will have no chance. However: this 2024 DEL semi-final has the motto “Small against big”. Here Munich and Berlin: two big city clubs with rich investors and teams full of national players who have won several titles in recent years. There Bremerhaven and Straubing: two small town clubs that depend on the local economy and have never reached a DEL final.

According to league boss Gernot Tripcke, this is what defines DEL. That it's not just those with the biggest names and the most money who are celebrating. Tripcke does not hide that “the big ones” are important for external representation: more fans and more charisma never interfere with marketing. But “a mix is ​​always good,” says Tripcke, and the current successes of Bremerhaven and Straubing are also “an incentive to everyone else that it is possible that the supposedly smaller ones can do it too.”

At first glance, the two currently starring in it don't have much in common. Some come from the northwest, where ice hockey is barely played. The others are from the Southeast, where winter sports are home. But there are definitely parallels. Both have had the same staff on and off the ice for years, and both are number one in their city. “If we had big football, we wouldn't be in this shape,” says Tigers general manager Gaby Sennebogen.

“Straubing has always been an ice hockey city, just like Bremerhaven: tradition and no direct competition.” Recently, the club expanded the stadium's VIP area from 350 to 470 seats. In Bremerhaven, too, they are “firmly rooted in the economy of the city and the region,” says team manager Alfred Prey, and have around 250 sponsors.

Thus, both have been developing steadily for years and no longer have to fire their best players every summer. You can see on the ice that both finished this season in the final table ahead of the teams from the big cities of Munich, Mannheim, Cologne, Nuremberg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. And now it works even in the play-offs. Although on paper they are still outsiders and talk like that, internally their objectives have changed a long time ago. The semi-finals should be just a stopover.

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