The New King of Germany
Riessersee fans are vocal in their support of their
team, including goaltender Chris King.
Germany – Several times a game at the 1936 Olympic
rink in the small Alps resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen,
Germany, SC Riessersee fans roar a cheer to salute a great
save by their goaltender, Chris King. It could be “Hail,
King,” “Three Kings” or perhaps a salute
to both the goalie and the team’s lead sponsor, King
Ludwig Dunkel beer.
hear my name, but that’s it,” says the Alaska
Anchorage alum, who doesn’t speak a lick of German.
language barrier isn’t slowing down King, who earned
the attention of college hockey fans – and German
scouts – with a stirring performance in the WCHA playoffs
last season, including a 44-save upset of Colorado College.
In that game, the Xcel Energy Center crowd rallied the Seawolves,
but even those cheers might be overshadowed by those of
Olympic rink boasts an environment that has undertones of
European soccer crowds, and is more energetic than even
the best student sections in college hockey. The members
of the “Blue Angel” fan club stand throughout
the game in the rink’s east bleachers; one fan bangs
a drum and the others sing along with cheers.
fans, there aren’t as many, but they’re just
as loud,” says King. “They bring an element
to the game that American hockey is missing. It’s
really enjoyable to play.”
the King's Men
King isn’t the only ex-collegian on the SC Riessersee
team. He’s joined by Nebraska-Omaha alum Dave
Noel-Bernier, who leads the league in goals, as well
as T.J. Guidarelli (Minnesota State, Mankato), Neil
McCann (Princeton) and Pete Runkel (Minnesota State,
Mankato). Each plays a significant role on a team made
up mostly of Germans.
American and Canadian contingent takes a team-first
approach and tries not to form a clique. King acknowledges,
however, that their common bonds can help, especially
while adjusting to a foreign country.
SC Riessersee player has a name that’s familiar
to WCHA fans: Waibel. But King doesn’t think
Harold Waibel, a top forward on the team, is any relation
to former Minnesota fan favorite Jon Waibel. Plus,
since the German language pronounces W’s as
we would V’s, it doesn’t even sound the
clearly, is making the most of his situation. By all rights
he should be playing in an NHL team’s system, but
the lockout helped send him overseas. He had a stint with
the New York Rangers’ AHL team at the end of last
season, and an invitation to attend Philadelphia Flyers
training camp this year that was retracted just a week before
camp was set to begin. King switched agents and ended up
joining SC Riessersee, who had seen him play last March.
he first flew over, King stayed in a hotel room that “was
literally the size of two twin beds,” he says. Since
then he’s been joined by his family – girlfriend
Stephanie and children Elena and Christian – which
he says has been the best part of his experience. He’s
making enough to support the four of them, and they have
rented a house in town.
worst part? No NFL football on TV, although he’s been
keeping up with the Seattle Seahawks’ run to the playoffs.
The language barrier doesn’t seem to bother King,
even in the locker room, where the coaching staff speaks
exclusively in German.
I sit there and try to figure out what they’re saying,
I can get a couple of words but I just get more confused,”
he says. “But if they’re not happy with someone,
the coach learns enough English to let them know.”
hasn’t been necessary much, if at all, in King’s
case. The coach can leave it to his fans to talk to King,
even if their goaltender doesn’t know what they are