YORKTON - Two area hockey players recently hoisted the championship trophy in the Del 2 league in Germany.
Davis Vandane of Yorkton and Brett Breitkreuz from Springside were both members of the Lowen Frankfurt Lions who won the championship in the second tier of pro hockey in Germany.
“This is actually my second tour in Frankfurt. I played here from 2015-2019, then took a two-year detour to Bietigheim,” said Breitkreuz in an interview with Yorkton This Week via email.” It was pretty special to come back here. I had an injury and some other things going on, and in August of this year my wife, kids, and myself moved back to Springside and were not sure we were going to play again.
“To get the opportunity to come back here was special, my son was born here, my daughter spent the first four years of her life in Frankfurt and it has always had a special place in our hearts.”
Vandane joined the team mid season.
“I have only played for the team for a couple of months,” he said via email. “I started the year in Dornbirn AT and had the opportunity to join Frankfurt for the last couple games of the season and for the playoff run.”
Once with the Lions Vandane said he felt like a long playoff run was possible.
“As soon as I joined the club I had the feeling that we were going to win, the group of guys were amazing and so welcoming and when the playoffs started there was a feeling in our room that nobody was going to take this away from us and that we were all in it together,” he said.
Breitkreuz agreed there was a positive expectation on the team.
“Once I signed here in January and we brought a couple guys in around the deadline, I knew that we had as good of a chance as anyone,” he said. “We had a special group with a lot of guys who had won previously, and it was just a matter of time until we got things rolling.
“We ended up first place at the end of the regular season and went 12-0 in the playoffs with three sweeps, so I guess we left no doubt who the best team was.”
The win was special offered Vandane.
“Lifting the cup was the best moment of my life playing hockey,” he said. “Skating around with it in front of the fans all cheering was so surreal. Hockey players always say how as a kid you dream of winning a cup and picture how it’s going to happen, but it was way better than I had ever expected . . .
“So far it has been the best hockey moment for me in Europe, I have never been to a finals in hockey before so I would say this is my best hockey moment anywhere. Being known as a Del 2 champion is something I’ll never forget.”
For Breitkreuz the championship was something of a repeat performance, although no less gratifying.
“It was actually my third time being a champion in Germany, and each time was special,” he said.
“My first time in 2017 was amazing, 7000 people and Frankfurt being a newer team in the league was a statement to everyone that we had arrived and we were for real.
“Last year I was lucky enough to win it again, and it was a different feeling. Because of COVID, the season was delayed, the playoffs were best-of-five, and we had to play 15 games to make it happen.
“With no fans it was a weird feeling, we played ghost games the whole season.
“But the bond with the other players and the families because of everything we had to deal with off the ice made it extra special.”
Then the most recent win was in its own way great too.
“And this year, having the fans back in the playoffs was amazing,” said Breitkreuz. “Going from not being sure I was going to play pro hockey again to being a champion in four months was pretty cool -- hard to put into words.
“And German hockey fans are amazing. If you ever have a chance to watch a game in Frankfurt, Berlin, Mannheim or Cologne it will blow your mind. The atmosphere is similar to a soccer game. They cheer and sing the entire game.”
The experience was made better by Breitkreuz and Vandane being together, along with fellow Saskatchewan players Jaden Schwartz from Wilcox and Saskatoon’s Dylan Wruck.
“Playing with guys from Saskatchewan is always a pleasure and something I never take for granted and being able to share a championship with guys who are from the same area/province is amazing,” said Vandane.
“Of course its always better with guys you know on the team,” echoed Breitkreuz. (It’s) very cool that Davis came, having played with my brother and then both of us being Yorkton minor hockey products is pretty cool.
“Me and Dylan Wruck were linemates in junior with the Edmonton Oil Kings, and played together on the same line here as well.
“My son was very excited to see my name and my brothers name this year on the wall at the Kinsmen. He was a big part of the U7 smoothies for most of the winter.
“The boys in the dressing room always got a good laugh at our ‘Sask boys’ conversations, talking about all the local teams we played on and then famous Saskatchewan landmarks like the Wadena Bakery, Elk Ridge Golf Course, Taylor Field, and how there isn’t a better way to spend a Saturday night in July than at a Rider game.”
Vandane hopes to be back with the team next season.
“Yes I’m hoping to return next season here in Frankfurt, I loved every second of being here,” he said.
Breitkreuz is less sure what path he might take.
“As far as that goes, I'm not too sure, we will sort things out with my family in the next couple weeks and see what offers come in,” he said.
“If not, I’ve had a great time and a good career over here, and will be ready to start my post hockey life doing a regular job and coaching my son and taking my daughter to soccer.
“And, I always enjoy the competition and playing some good hockey. I had the chance to play a little senior hockey in my hiatus from pro, and had a great time with the boys in Foam Lake, so there is a good chance I will end up suiting up for them for a few games once I retire for good.