Last week I wrote about the club career of Dieter Frenzel, one of the best hockey players to play in the German Democratic Republic. Frenzel was a key player on the SC Dynamo Berlin team that won the East German title 12 of the 17 years he played for them, but he was also the leader of the country’s national team, and his experiences with this team make up this week’s post.
Any visitor to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada would be forgiven for thinking that East Germany had never played a role of any significance in the history of the sport. A stroll through an exhibit on world hockey which presents jerseys and some basic statistics on some of the more exotic national teams includes no mention of the GDR’s accomplishments in the international game. Mentions of the German hockey during the Cold War era are limited to the West German team and when I relate my experience to Dieter Frenzel, he shakes his head: “There were jerseys for a couple of our players there. Joachim Ziesche [the only East German inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, ed. note] gave them to them, so that’s too bad. For almost forty years we were among the top 8 teams in the world and they’ve completely forgotten about us.” (Interview, Dieter Frenzel, April 3, 2014) The issue it seems is that the East German players’ records have never been recognized by the (West) German Ice Hockey Association, now the sole administrator of German hockey records. As a point of comparison, GDR soccer players have had their statistics incorporated into the official record books of German soccer, likely as a result of team members contributions to the country’s 1990 World Cup victory, but nothing of the sort happened for ice hockey. Naturally this is a sore spot for Frenzel: “That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The only place where we GDR players can be found in the record books is with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). That’s it. Not in the German records, not in the other international records. Nothing. It’s as if we never existed.”