Michael Körper is hopeful his goals will help light up a yellow and black party as the EHL Men’s KO16 comes to his Harvestehuder THC home in Hamburg next week, writes Stephen Findlater.
The Austrian striker is one of the event’s most iconic players and hold the best goals-per-game ratio in the EHL’s 15-year history, scoring 20 times in just 13 games.
Memorably, Körper fired home the winning shoot-out in the 2014 final to give HTHC the title in Eindhoven and he is looking forward to starting the journey to another potential title in front of a loud home support.
“All the fans are really looking forward to building that yellow wall!” he said ahead of the event. “We want to see a full house so we can have a beautiful hockey festival – four days: just hockey, fans, family and friends.”
It will be the second time HTHC has welcomed the competition with the old Round 1 group stage visiting in 2015. This time around, each club will be faced with a KO16 format with each game producing a winner.
It will also be a day longer with 16 teams taking part with four games each day from Thursday, September 29 to Sunday, October 2. That tweak adds an extra dimension for the competitor in Körper.
“It is all or nothing every game. The EHL, for every hockey player, is a dream! The competition, playing the best teams in Europe is something I am looking forward to all the time. I am really happy we got the ticket last season and delighted it will be in Hamburg again like in 2015.
“It’s really different from the last time we played. First up, we have Western Wildcats from Scotland who we must give our full focus because our sole aim is to win both games and reach the Final 8 next Easter 2023.”
It is a long way from his beginnings in hockey. Growing up in Austria, he was ambitious to test himself in new environments and see how far the game could take him.
That led to a move to Munich where he spent three seasons in the second Bundesliga before following his fellow Austrian star Benny Stanzl to Hamburg in March 2010.
It was the beginning of a connection between HTHC and Austrian players that sees Xaver Hasun now captain the club while Florian Steyrer, Christoph Soldat and Oliver Kern have become part of the tradition.
“Getting to a higher level was my aim when I came to Germany,” Körper said. “I love this sport and want to get better, to compete with the best. I wanted to mix that with an education and that is something you get some really good help with from the clubs in Germany.”
His arrival also coincided with the arrival of Christoph Bechmann – a three-time Olympian and World Cup gold medalist – as head coach, a role retains to this day.
“He helped lots of players to perform and to develop in a different way to normal coaches, doing a lot for our mindset. I am here 12 years now and I try to get every season a bit better. I can say I have achieved that but I am not tired of it – I just want to keep getting better!”
That manifests itself in Körper’s near-obsession with goalscoring, always figuring near the top of the Bundesliga – he has five in four games this season so far.
It is why he has been such a central figure in Harvestehuder THC’s biggest EHL moments, offering a lethal threat from play, corners and strokes as well as shoot-outs.
He was there to score that 2014 winning shoot-out; his sublime hat trick against Oranje-Zwart in 2016 helped overturn a 4–1 deficit before he popped in another winner in the shoot-out. Another pair of goals earned bronze in Barcelona in 2016.
“If I am not scoring each game, I get really pissed so I analyse what I did wrong and what has to be better to score again. For me, it is my mindset – I have to score each game.
“It is a bit of an obsession but mainly because I hate losing, big time! If I score, we are less likely to lose. That’s why I want to score so many!”
And so he will be hungry to have the yellow and black support buzzing on Saturday evening following a productive start to their German league season.
HTHC bounced back from an opening day defeat to Club an der Alster with three successive victories, producing a trademark comeback last Saturday against Hamburger Polo Club with two goals in the last three minutes earning a 4-3 success.
Körper says that EHL vibe is already beginning to spread around the club ahead of next week’s series.
“I am really looking forward to having the EHL back at my home club. It’s like dressing up for a party! The place looks really different; the tennis pitches next to the hockey field are transformed into a stand and we have the hockey village.
“The last time, the place looked incredible and I am really looking forward for the set-up for the crowd to enjoy good hockey.
“The KO games make it a tough, tough tournament for every team and we want to see good hockey. We want to see a full house so we can have a beautiful hockey festival – four days, just hockey, fans, family and friends”
EHL Men’s KO16 will be available for broadcast across the globe from Sep 29 to Oct 2, 2022 via the following outlets
- www.EuroHockeyTV.org – every game live on pay-per-view for €6.99 (all regions except Latin America and France)
- ESPN Latin America will broadcast each game live
- SportAll hold the rights for each game in France.