The most exciting and decisive phase of the season in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) is underway. But you have to look very quickly to catch the play-offs. That’s what’s being played at breakneck speed these days. On Thursday, the Eisbären won against Mannheim in the semi-finals, 19 hours later the Berliners played their first final game against Munich on Friday. And after a luxurious rest on Saturday, the second game in the final continues on Sunday in Munich, before the clubs are crossed again on the ice in Berlin on Monday. A possible fourth game of the series played according to the “Best of five” mode would be on Wednesday, final number five is scheduled for Thursday. The highlight of the season, the play-offs, will be run through at high speed, and the champion may be crowned within four days – after a main round that lasted from September to April.
That’s a bit like retailers cutting back their opening hours in the weeks leading up to Christmas, torpedoing their peak business year. And that is – madness!
Of course, there are explanations for chasing appointments. Corona season, game cancellations, resulting game transfers, so hardly any planning, especially for the big arenas like in Berlin, which now also live from events other than ice hockey. That’s all nice, but not good: Squeezed between the main round of the league and the upcoming World Cup in Finland, it just seems rushed: Comparatively very low spectator numbers in the arenas in the play-offs show that the fans can hardly keep up either. On Thursday there were just 10,000 spectators in Berlin at the polar bears – an absolute minus backdrop for a semi-final game, since 2008, since the Berliners have been playing in their large arena. Even in Mannheim, otherwise often full of important fixtures, not a play-off game was sold out.
The strain on the players is probably the smallest problem, they know something like that in ice hockey. But as far as the external image is concerned, it is certainly not very wise to shorten the part of the season that receives more public and media attention than the extended main round of the DEL. And that should not be repeated in the interest of the league.