DÜSSELDORF, Germany – After five years in Switzerland, Harold Kreis is back in Germany, his second homeland. The DEG Metro Stars webpage did a 90-minute, 90-question interview with Kreis. Now, IIHF.com brings the highlights from the lengthy interview.
The Winnipeg-born Canadian moved to Mannheim, Germany, in 1978 when he was 19. The club Mannheimer ERC, now known as Adler Mannheim, had just reached the highest league. “I made the decision in my parent’s living room. Mannheim coach Heinz Weisenbach visited wearing a polyester suit and white socks. It was strange but I thought that must be the normal fashion in Europe,” recalls Kreis, whose name means circle in German.
The German league had stricter import rules at that time, so Weisenbach was looking for Canadians with German roots to get around the rules.
Kreis’ parents gave him the green light as he would earn more money than in Canada. The tip he was given before he left for Germany? “My parents told me I should bring toilet paper with me as it is quite hard in Germany.” He arrived and was driven very speedily from the Frankfurt airport to Mannheim in a BMW 7-series. “I thought I wouldn’t survive and that it was maybe not the best decision to come over.”
But the decision proved to be a good one as Kreis played for Adler Mannheim for the next 19 years as a defender. Some nicknamed him turtle. “Because I always fell on my back.” He also had 180 national team games for West Germany including eight World Championships and two Olympics. He completed his playing career for the eagles in 1997 and started coaching. “Winning the championship for the first time in 17 years was my biggest moment. I could resign happy.” It was his second championship with the team. The former captain’s #3 was retired afterward.
After stints as an assistant coach, he moved to Switzerland in 2003, coaching EHC Chur, the junior team of HC Davos, HC Lugano and the ZSC Lions Zurich.
He made a name for himself with Lugano in 2006 when he was signed during the quarterfinals. His team was down 3-0 against archrival HC Ambrì-Piotta, and ended up winning the championship. After the Lugano title, he left for Zurich and won the championship in his second season.
“As a player, Lasdilav Olejnik was the most impressive coach to me. During my coaching career it was my assistant Dave Chambers in Zurich. He’s 68 years old, has NHL experience and is a legend in Canada,” Kreis said.
Now Kreis is back in Germany. Not at his old home, Mannheim, where he misses the old-style arena, but in Düsseldorf, where he’s coaching the DEG Metro Stars. He has the same task as in Zurich two years ago: Bring a former top team into championship form. Instead of Chambers, his assistant is Mike Schmidt, another German-Canadian who was his teammate with Mannheim and the national team.
Kreis is getting used to the new club. “Some neighbours know who I am and wish me luck,” he says. At least no neighbour has come over to complain as apparently during his time in Mannheim.
And it seems they won’t be complaining any time soon as his team stood atop the standings after their eighth straight win on Thursday.
Full interview on the DEG website (in German): Part 1
, Part 2