International Ice Hockey Federation

Bjorn the ice man

Bjorn the ice man

Krupp follows dad’s path, his own way

Published 20.02.2018 01:53 GMT+10 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Bjorn the ice man
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Germany's Bjorn Krupp #40 gets a pass of against Team Sweden during preliminary round action at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Uwe Krupp is arguably the greatest hockey player in Germany’s long hockey history, and his son is here in Korea playing for the national team.

Krupp the Younger, though, was born in the United States, played junior hockey in Canada, and takes his given name from a Swedish great, the tennis maestro named Borg.

“My parents were big tennis fans, so loved tennis and named me after Bjorn Borg,” the hockey player said with a chuckle. “I play a little tennis, but I’m not that good.”

Born in Buffalo while his dad was playing for the Sabres, Bjorn got his big break when he was eleven years old and his dad caught unawares.

“It’s kind of a sad story,” Bjorn recounted, “because when my dad was finishing his career in Atlanta, he had two teammates, Jeff Cowan and Dan Snyder, with the Thrashers. They actually saw me at a “learn to skate” event, and they told my dad to get me some equipment and put me in house league. They kind of forced my dad to get me out. Then, two or three weeks later, Dan Snyder was killed in a car crash. But he’s one of the main reasons I’m playing hockey.”

Krupp joined, loved it, and got good very quickly. But Atlanta is no hockey hotbed, though, so Krupp played on teams that always had to travel to get good competition. Cue forward a few years.

“I played on a AAA team in the south, and while we were travelling I was scouted by USA Hockey and they invited me to a camp. I got in and played with the National Team Development Program for a year (2007-08). It was a great experience.”

Krupp decided to leave the program and play junior hockey with the Belleville Bulls. “No offence to the NCAA,” he said politely, “but the OHL guaranteed a free education as well and it was a better place for me to develop.”

During his three years with the Bulls he was never drafted into the NHL, so at the age of 20 he was in a quandary.

“I was at that stage where I was in a grey area, and I didn’t know where I would fit in,” he explained. “I had the opportunity to play in Germany, so I decided to change things up and develop that way. I was supposed to play in the Oberliga, the third level, but that summer when I went to Germany the assistant coach said I was a big kid and should try out for the first team. So I made the team in Cologne and kept improving and made a spot for myself.”

Krupp has been there ever since. Now in his seventh year in the DEL, first with Cologne and more recently Wolfsburg, he has also started to represent his country internationally. 

He hade his senior debut at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague and is now in his first Olympics.

“It’s an incredible experience,” he enthused of his early days in Korea. “It’s always an honour to wear the German jersey and represent my country. I’m enjoying it.”

Of course, Krupp and his teammates took part in the Opening Ceremonies, a night he’ll never forget.

“It was amazing seeing all these athletes, but probably the most exciting part of that night was standing in the corridor, and you see the stadium and the lights, and the countries come out in front of you, and then they call “Team Germany!” and you look up and you’re in the middle of this huge crowd. I had goosebumps. I was speechless.”

Unlike some athletes, though, he doesn’t have a name on the tip of his tongue that he’d like to bump into at the athletes’ village.

“To be honest, it’s great seeing everyone. There are some guys you’ve seen on TV, and seeing them in person is a totally different thing. It’s awesome.”

Krupp will try to help his team get to the quarter-finals and then do some playoff damage, but in retrospect he can appreciate how he got here. It has not been a straight line, and it has not been a journey anyone could likely replicate, but that’s okay.

“It’s been an odyssey, but if I could do it all over again, I’d do it the same way,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great people, and even though it hasn’t been a traditional path, it has been amazing.”

 

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