GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 23: Germany's Brooks Macek #12 celebrates at the bench after a first period goal against Canada during semifinal round action at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Naturalized Canadian coming through for Germany
Brooks Macek is having fun and making history. That’s a pretty good combo for any 25-year-old, and it’s even sweeter when it happens at the Olympics.
In junior, the Winnipeg native spent five years in the WHL as a dexterous playmaking centre for the Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen. But now Macek, who holds dual Canadian and German citizenship, is making the most of his opportunity with the German national team, which shockingly will face the favoured Olympic Athletes from Russia in Sunday’s gold medal game. Talk about a transition.
“It’s been an amazing run,” said Macek after Germany’s 4-3 semi-final upset of Canada on Friday. It was the first time a German team has ever defeated the motherland of hockey at the Games in 15 tries dating back to 1932.
When the 181-cm, 82-kg forward drew first blood in the semi-final, he became the first Canadian-born and trained player ever to score in an Olympic playoff game that eliminated Canada from gold-medal contention. It was Macek’s biggest point of the tournament so far. He also scored in the opening 5-2 loss to Finland and added an assist when Germany edged Norway 2-1 in a shootout.
Even factoring in stand-out efforts like goalie Danny aus den Birken’s 122 saves in five games and Patrick Hager’s team-leading six points, this has been a bona fide team effort, and Macek is playing his part to perfection.
At these Games, Canadian-born KHL stars like Nigel Dawes and Kevin Dallman (Barys Astana) couldn’t suit up for Canada because they’d already committed to Kazakhstan. They likely would have received consideration otherwise, and for some guys, that would cause anguish. However, despite being in a somewhat similar situation, Macek hasn’t lost any sleep.
“I played U17 [in 2009], but I don’t think that’s even considered Team Canada,” Macek explained. “So I never played for Team Canada. I played in two World Championships with these guys, so I think my eligibility for Canada is gone anyways. I don’t think it really matters.”
After three solid seasons of 30-plus points with the DEL’s Iserlohn roosters, he jumped last season to EHC Red Bull Munich. The move promptly paid dividends as he racked up six goals and 11 assists in 14 games en route to his first league championship.
“I was drafted to Detroit [in the sixth round, 171st overall in 2010], and I didn’t sign there,” said Macek. “So that was a missed opportunity. Then I moved over to Germany and started playing. My first year in Iserlohn, I had a great coach who liked me and played me a lot. I think I just kind of ran with the opportunity.”
It’s been a steady progression for him under coach Marco Sturm. Germany’s greatest NHL forward was originally hired to helm the national team in the summer of 2015, and just got a contract extension through 2022. Macek still vividly recalls how he got invited to make his Sturm-era debut in the black, gold and red jersey.
“It was November before the World Championship in St. Petersburg,” Macek said. “I got invited to the Deutschland Cup, which is a tournament we have here where we invite some other countries and we play a couple of games. That was the first time I suited up for Team Germany. Then I went to the Worlds in St. Petersburg, Worlds in Cologne, and now this.”
Macek chipped in four points in the 2016 run to a quarter-final berth and two goals in 2017 when the national team repeated that feat. He also got a goal and two assists in three Olympic qualification games, where the hard-working Germans required a late Tom Kuhnhackl tally to surpass host Latvia and book their tickets to PyeongChang.
According to Macek, Deutschland’s Cinderella run to what is already its greatest Olympic hockey achievement will make waves in the nation of 80 million.
“It’s absolutely huge. The main sport there is soccer and then there’s nothing else. It’s just all soccer. For ice hockey, there are kids back in Germany watching this game. Maybe it’ll push them toward playing ice hockey. They see us playing for gold. You know, I think it’s absolutely massive for the sport in Germany, for sure.”
And someday when his playing days are over, he’s surely got a marketing job waiting for him, either with Red Bull or the Munich tourism board. He’s a big fan of the Bavarian capital.
“It’s awesome,” Macek said. “We’ve got Oktoberfest there, so September and October are pretty good months – a lot of visitors, a lot of beer. It’s an amazing city. It’s a world-class city. The organization’s owned by Red Bull. They treat us like gold. It’s an amazing spot to play in Europe, for sure.”
But right now, he’s squarely focused on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go for gold against the high-powered Olympic Athletes from Russia, who boast a 23-6 goal difference and are seeking their first Winter Games title since 1992.
After knocking off Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada, do the Germans have one more upset left in them versus offensive dynamos like Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Nikita Gusev? Macek would love to have some more fun and make some more history.
“We definitely know they’re a fast team with a lot of firepower and good players. We beat some pretty good teams to get here. Heading into that game, we’ve just got to stick with our game plan, and we just need another effort like tonight.”