Leon Draisaitl is the superstar of German ice hockey, but not he, but 27-year-old Nico Sturm is now reaching for the Stanley Cup. The Augsburg native has only been playing for Colorado Avalanche for three months. In the finals, the "depth player" can write German NHL history.
Of course, Nico Sturm did not see Uwe Krupp's goal live. "I was a bit too young for that," says the ice hockey professional. When his compatriot shot the Colorado Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup triumph in the third overtime on June 10, 1996, the man from Augsburg was just 13 months old. Now - 26 years later - he would like to follow in Krupp's footsteps.
"Every kid who plays ice hockey has dreamed of scoring the decisive goal in a Stanley Cup final and then lifting the cup," says Sturm, who died on Thursday night (2 a.m. CEST /Sky) starts with the team from Denver in the final series against defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
One-time world-class defenseman Krupp fulfilled that childhood dream when he immortalized himself with his slapshot off the blue line in Denver. "His goal is of course legendary here," says Sturm. However, he has not yet had personal contact with the later national coach: "I don't know him at all and have never spoken to him."
Sturm, born and educated in Augsburg, trained at Clarkson University in Potsdam/New York, has only been playing for the Avalanche for three months. His move from Minnesota Wild to Colorado was "of course my luck": "It could have gone to 30 other teams."
The 27-year-old is the eighth German overall in the final for the most coveted ice hockey trophy in the world. In addition to Krupp, Dennis Seidenberg (2011), Tom Kühnhackl (2016 and 2017) and Philipp Grubauer (2018) also won the Stanley Cup. Olaf Kölzig, Christoph Schubert and Christian Ehrhoff, on the other hand, went away empty-handed.
Sturm's role cannot be compared to Krupp's. With 16 points, the man from Cologne was the second-best defender in the playoffs. Attacker Sturm made just seven appearances in the knockout stages and had one assist. He sees himself as a "deep player" who has his bets "in the third and fourth row". "Of course, the main thing is to close the back, to win my face-offs, to be good when outnumbered."
More comparable to Tom Kühnhackl, who triumphed twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a predominantly defensive, strong striker. Like the man from Landshut, Sturm only made it into the NHL at the age of 24 and initially had to fight his way through to the lower-class AHL. But now, like Kühnhackl, he is in the right place at the right time. "Denver is outstanding," he enthuses, "I feel totally at home here, I was well received as a player and as a person."
The stars in the "Lawine" are different: striker Nathan MacKinnon, for example, captain Gabriel Landeskog or offensive defender Cale Makar. But if a German were to shoot them to the title again, they certainly wouldn't mind in Denver. Like Uwe Krupp 26 years ago.