German Elite League Hockey * English coverage of Germany's DEL Deutsche Eishockey Liga
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DEL 2005-06: Back to normal
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August 21, 2005; 20:50
DEL 2005-06: Back to normal
Wolfsburg relegated, Kassel stays, Duisburg in
Frank Johne

Didi Hegen, head coach of the Duisburg Foxes
Coach Didi Hegen has guided Duisburg to the DEL

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Munich, Germany - When the DEG Metro Stars and Adler Mannheim take the ice September 8, 2005, to open the 12th DEL season in Mannheim's brand new SAP Arena, life in the league will be back to normal. Doug Weight, Olaf Kölzig, Eric Cole, Mike York, Marco Sturm and all the other 22 NHL lockout players have returned to North America.

Benoit Laporte, former head coach of the Augsburg Panthers
Benoit Laporte has taken reins in Nuremberg
Leading DEL Scorers
(as of Feb 19, 2005)

The big names may be gone, but there will still be dozens of North Americans who will attempt to leave their marks in Germany's elite league. Long-time NHLers Trevor Kidd, Jeff Shantz and Todd Warriner, returnee Marty Murray (who played for the Kölner Haie in 1999-200), Swiss league sniper Lonny Bohonos and twin brothers Chris and Peter Ferraro head the list of the 2005 overseas imports.

Some teams have been hesitant with international transactions. For instance, defending champion Berlin Eisbären has not brought in any new import players so far. The market is rather empty as several potential candidates are still trying to make NHL teams.

Wolfsburg relegated to Second Bundesliga

Also gone is last year's expansion team Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg, which had earned the right to stay in the DEL after defeating the Kassel Huskies in a seven-game relegation series. Wolfsburg was kicked out of the league at an off-season DEL owners meeting. After playing their home games at 2,700-seat Eispalast arena last year, the Grizzlies failed to break ground for a much-needed DEL-capable arena, the franchise was revoked. So DEL charter member Kassel, which was originally supposed to be relegated to Division-2 (2. Bundesliga), was allowed to stay. An expansion team will take Wolfsburg's place: The Duisburg Füchse, last year's Division-2 champ will make their debut in the DEL.

The "Foxes" may be one of the last Division-2 teams ever to get promoted to the elite league. This spring, the DEL decided to shut the doors and to abolish promotion and relegation in 2006. The member teams hope to get more (financial) security by closing the league to new entrants – a decision that has been heavily criticised by fans, amateur teams, the media and even the IIHF (International ice Hockey Federation).

The current 14-team format was introduced in 2002. Every DEL teams has 52 regular season games, playing each of the other 13 teams four times, twice at home and twice on the road. The top eight teams of the regular season advance to the DEL playoffs, where series are best-of-seven in the quarterfinals and best-of-five in both semifinal and final series.

Two of the five new head coaches in the DEL are Germans: Duisburg's 43-year-old Dieter Hegen, a standout forward in the 80's and 90's who is in his fourth year as the team's head coach, and Bernie Englbrecht, a former goalie and the first-ever German-born and -trained player to be drafted by an NHL team (Atlanta Flames, 1978). The 47-year-old Englbrecht.spent the last few years as head coach of Div2-club Landshut Cannibals and as an assistant on Team Germany's staff.

Augsburg's Bernie Laporte is the new man behind the bench for the Nürnberg Ice Tigers, taking over from Greg Poss. Augsburg brought in Randy Edmonds, who coached NOJHL Junior-A team North Bay Skyhawks last year after stints in Sweden and Japan. Don Jackson, who worked as an assistant coach under Pierre Pagé for the Berlin Eisbären last year, succeeds Butch Goring in Düsseldorf.
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