Like his father, Kühnhackl wants to win an Olympic medal: “Everything is in there”

At 30, Tom Kühnhackl finally followed in his father Erich’s footsteps and took part in the Olympics. He would also like to have a medal like the senior in Innsbruck in 1976.

When his father Erich wrote German ice hockey history at the Olympics, Tom Kühnhackl was far from born. The national ice hockey player only found out about the bronze medal in Innsbruck much, much later. “In the beginning you don’t even know what kind of sport he does,” says the man from Landshut, “then you find out that he plays ice hockey, then that he was really good, and then that he was at the Olympics.”

46 years after the bronze coup of the German player of the century, his son finally wants to follow in his footsteps – with a delay in his Olympic debut. Kühnhackl junior missed the silver sensation in 2018 in Pyeongchang, although he actually made it possible in the first place. His goal to make it 3-2 in the last qualifier against Latvia bought the ticket, the rest is sports history. Because the NHL did not send their players to South Korea, the man from Landshut, who had just won the Stanley Cup for the second time, had to watch.

Kühnhackl: Disappointment about NHL-Aus gone

In Beijing he is part of the German team because he did not get a new NHL contract last summer after 290 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders. The disappointment is gone now. “In the end everything turned out well,” he says and laughs. Because he is under contract with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden, his Olympic dream will finally come true, while NHL stars Leon Draisaitl or Philipp Grubauer are again not allowed to participate.

“I’m just glad that I can be here,” says Kühnhackl. He knows: 2022 could be the only Olympic chance of his life. “I’m 30 now. In four years you never know if my body can hold out that long.”

In Beijing, where the Olympic tournament for the German team starts on Thursday (2:10 p.m. CET) against Canada, the strong striker wants to play a leading role – like in his first World Cup last year, when he not only made an exemplary impression in the shots, but also scored three goals – including in the 3-2 win after a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-finals against Switzerland.

Olympic talk with father follows

What he only watched on television four years ago, he now wants to experience for himself. “It’s all there,” says Kühnhackl, “we have a great squad, a good mix of experienced and young players. Everyone wants to do a good job and give 110 percent from the first to the last second.”

Because in the end he wants to tell his father about the Olympics. “Then we can compare how it was for him then and how it is this year,” he says. He would love to place his own medal next to Innsbruck’s bronze. “Of course that would be an outstanding thing, but we’re still a long way from that.”


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