By Jennifer Clampet
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
In the world of frozen water and puck handling, nationality doesn’t even suit up as a focus of the game for the Young Lions of Frankfurt.
When 15-year-old Daniel Mattner skates out on the ice to play with his German teammates at the Eissporthalle Frankfurt, everything else that isn’t hockey fades into the background.
“Hockey is hockey is hockey,” agreed Daniel and his father Lt. Col. Matthew Mattner, commander of the Wiesbaden Health Clinic at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
Daniel has played for the Young Lions Eishockey Frankfurt club for the past two seasons.
And for both years, his teams — first in the 13-14 age group and then in the 15-16 age group — skated away with league championships, the meisterschaft of the Nord-Rhein Westfalen league. His team took home their latest championship on Feb. 26 with an 11-1 win.
Jari Aaltonen, a U.S. civilian contracting officer with DECA, has two sons, Kiian and Magnar, who also play on the 15-16 age group team.
“The camaraderie and particularly when they’re winning, it couldn’t be better for the kids and the adults,” said Aaltonen.
For both the Mattner and Aaltonen families, hockey is such a big part of their lives that when each family got news that they would be moving to Germany both fathers said they jumped on the Internet to find out the options for their sons to play hockey.
“Coming to a new country, if you can get your child involved in sports activities, it certainly makes the transition much easier,” said Aaltonen.
The club’s website at young-lions.com gave the families all the information they needed. Aaltonen said that his family arrived in Germany six years ago on a Monday. By Wednesday his boys were out on the ice practicing with the league.
“I was really excited,” said Daniel about finding the Young Lions Frankfurt. “I mean hockey is a big part of my life.”
And how different is it from playing with an American team?
On the ice, the team speaks German something that the Aaltonen boys who are enrolled in a private German school and Daniel who lived in Germany as a child have no problems with.
Techniques are different, said Daniel. In the German league, the emphasis is more on the finesse of the game — stick handling and moving the puck. In the states, it’s more about hitting and scoring goals, said Daniel.
But in Germany, the desire to win is still as strong.
“If you’re going to do something in Germany, you’re going to do it best. That’s it. You’re there to win,” said Matthew Mattner.