The Kassel Eissporthalle ice rink will host the WINGAS Cup for the first time from 8 to 10 August. For the hosts, the Kassel Huskies, the tournament offers a host of opportunities, as Manager Joe Gibbs explains in an interview.
Mr. Gibbs, what role does the new WINGAS Cup play for the region and ice hockey in Germany?
The tournament is important not only for Kassel, but for all of North Hesse. It will also be a godsend for the sport in Germany. Top-class teams like Dinamo Riga, HC Slovan Bratislava and HC Vityaz don’t come to Germany very often. And if they do, then maybe to Munich, but not to a city the size of Kassel. Nor do clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League usually play against second-division teams. That’s why participating in the WINGAS Cup is a real privilege for us.
How do you rate the three guest clubs and what are your team’s chances of winning the tournament?
The guests are, of course, much better that us. After all, the KHL is the second-best league in the world with 34 teams from all over Eastern Europe, but also from Finland. A Chinese team even joined the league just recently. That means we’re clearly the underdogs. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stand a chance at all. Needless to say, we’ll try to win every game we play. That’s what’s so great about sport – you never know how things will turn out.
How does the tournament benefit the Huskies in sporting terms?
We see it as a benchmark of where we stand in terms of performance and how we might do in the new season. We as a club and our players can gain valuable experience from the tournament. We recognize our strengths and weaknesses – for example, what shape the team is in and how it’s playing, and how we perform in power plays, in other words, when we have more or fewer players on the ice than the opponent. All our players are highly motivated and looking forward to the WINGAS Cup.
What does organizing such an event mean for your club?
We can learn a lot in terms of organization, because we’re responsible for a host of different things: taking care of the referees, the catering in the arena, providing security, paramedics and volunteer stewards, and arranging accommodation for the guest teams. WINGAS has given us a great deal of help in every aspect.
How many spectators are you expecting?
The interest is huge, also in the media. For games at midday or in the afternoon, we expect to have 1,000 to 1,500 spectators. For the evening games, when the Huskies are playing, we expect around 2,000 spectators. Many of them will be from outside our region, hopefully including fans of the KHL teams, even if it’s a long way to come for them.
What can the spectators look forward to?
A high level of play. And the opportunity to experience Maxim Afinogenov and Andrej Meszároš live. It also promises to be exciting for fans of the Kassel Huskies seeing our new players in action for the first time. And when else do you have ice hockey in the middle of summer? Normally, we have a two-week training camp before the new season starts. Because of the WINGAS Cup, everything is earlier this year. We start training on 1 August and have our first game a week later.