Peter John Lee, 64, has been with the Eisbären Berlin since 1995. First he played as a striker for the club from the German Ice Hockey League (DEL). He later worked as a trainer and manager. The Canadian-born Canadian is now the managing director of the Berlin club. No other has been on the polar bear’s management team as long as the former world-class striker, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Düsseldorf EG, among others. The polar bears finished fourth in the main round of the DEL this season and should play in the quarter-finals of the play-offs against Düsseldorf. But then the league declared the season over, there is no master.
Peter John Lee , How are you? So what do you do all day without play-offs?
me I’m on the phone and hoarse. We all work in our home office, which works.
The end of the season in Ice hockey came earlier than in other sports . At a time when it was still being played in football and there were discussions about ghost games. Looking back, how do you see the league’s quick decision to end the season after the main round?
Yes, it was quick and was of course the right decision. The players immediately got away in all directions, that was weird .
It was particularly quick with their US striker Landon Ferraro when he left, his father Ray told in an interview.
At two in the morning Landon heard that US President Donald Trump is closing the borders. At 6.30 a.m. he was already on the plane. He was very nervous, so were all the other guys. We had planned a big meeting with the team, but that didn’t happen. Everyone was gone within 24 hours. But well, we have now arranged everything by telephone.
How do you plan now with the Polar bears? Some contracts expire. The players no longer had the chance to distinguish themselves in the play-offs and maybe recommend them for a new contract?
Let’s be honest, ice hockey and especially us in the German Ice Hockey League didn’t hit as hard as the other sports. We almost ended the season, but we all missed the play-offs. The play-offs are bonuses, which should not be included in the budget, not even in the back of the head.
So the Kölner Haie have everything done correctly: no play-offs achieved, but had the most viewers and no bonuses paid to the players.
Yes exactly. They hardly expected that a few weeks ago. But seriously, of course there is still a financial loss. The arenas are empty where they would otherwise be full in the play-offs. This affects not only the sausage seller in Augsburg, but also ice hockey. We get a lot more attention in the play-offs than usual, and we are already doing a lot of damage. But handball and basketball, for example, may be hit harder because they weren’t as far in their season as we were. We even qualified for the Champions League, by the way, the Champions League was finished this season, Frölunda Göteborg won it.
“We are all healthy, that’s the most important thing”
They are not so happy about it in Sweden anymore. And the anticipation for the Champions League should be diminished by the polar bears, it is hardly to be expected that there will be games as planned from August.
No, unfortunately not. But we still plan. With Mathias Niederberger we have a very strong goalkeeper. The other two goalkeepers Justin Pogge and Sebastian Dahm had to go, they both wanted to be number one, but that is no longer possible. We will provide Mathias with a young goalkeeper, but nothing has been decided yet.
17 players remain, you have already announced. You broke up with a veteran professional like André Rankel . What about Florian Busch, like Rankel one of the last players from the 1985 vintage who was considered particularly strong?
His contract expires, but he is currently on sick leave. We have to see what happens there. I can’t say anything yet.
Lukas Reichel, her great talent, will surely play a good role in the draft of the NHL, see will we see him again in Berlin?
Hopefully Lukas will have another year for play us. It is better for his development if he plays with men and is not parked in any junior league for a year. It is his turn to have four clubs from the NHL, that’s my feeling. A lot depends on who wants to take it then. But with or without Lukas – we are well positioned overall, we won’t have to change that much. Absolutely no question, the chemistry in the team was good. We would have had a chance to win the title this season, but good. It just didn’t work and of course there are other things of interest at the moment. We are all healthy, that’s important.
In German football they are still sticking to dates, the Bundesliga has so far only stayed until April. In ice hockey there is no planned schedule, right?
The last cancellation that was still missing was that of the World Cup. That has happened now. Now the ice hockey season is over. Although I still think the NHL will find some way to play at some point. We want to start team training at the end of July, so we are currently planning. But training is one thing, games are another.
How much damage is there for the DEL. Will all clubs survive the coronavirus crisis?
It hurts everyone. Theoretically, a club that misses the play-offs has no harm. But practically, small clubs in particular are dependent on many sponsors. And nobody knows what happens there. We are planning the next season and hope for the best. We don’t worry about polar bears.