Florian Fuchs is bidding this weekend to join former UHC Hamburg team mate Marco Miltkau as one of the rare few to win the Euro Hockey League with two different clubs.
At the age of 26, the German star can already be considered one of the true legends of the EHL. With his blistering pace and eye for goal, he has been making waves from the very start of his adult career and has gone on to win two EHL gold medals, two silver and produce an incredible highlight reel.
It may never have happened, though, had he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined one of UHC’s loval rivals.
“I lived around the corner from UHC and my father played hockey with Club an der Alster,” he told the EHL website. “That was too far away from where we lived so that made the choice. From then, I always had my best friends there!”
That was at age five. With those same friends, they would develop into one of Germany’s best youth teams, battling it out with Uhlenhorst Mulheim for national titles with a half dozen of them soon battling to break into the first team.
For Fuchs, the 2007/08 EHL success came just a few months too early.
“I just turned 16 after the deadline [for registration] so my coach didn’t put me on the squad list which I totally understood. I couldn’t play EHL that season but right after we won it was when I played my first adult games.”
Indeed, coach Martin Schulze gave him his debut in the German playoffs quarter-finals a week later and he scored in his first adult game. Incredibly, he was born five years after his strike partner Philip Sunkel had made his debut for the team.
Soon after, he scored again against Harvestehuder THC in the Bundesliga third place playoff, securing a return ticket for the EHL.
For that 2008/09 season, he went straight into the team that battled through to the EHL GRAND FINAL, meeting Bloemendaal in Rotterdam.
“Most of what I remember of that season was that final against Bloemendaal and coming up against Jamie [Dwyer]. I had no idea what was happening; we were 5-1 down!
“How were we going to have any chance against this? They are unbeatable! But, in the end, we got back to 5-4 and had a really big chance for an equaliser. I learned something that day as a young player and something I had never experienced before!”
A year later, he had a whole heap of extra experiences to draw on.
“It was crazy. The whole year went so quickly. I made my debut for the national team in 2009 at 17, played the World Cup in March 2010 in India. One thing kept coming after another which I didn’t expect to be involved.
“It was already a lot to process before the EHL which we managed to win. We were such a great team, not just on the field but off it, a lot of good friends. Winning with your best friends, with that kind of team where everyone is so close is always something special.”
This time in the EHL, they edged past Bloemendaal in a shoot-out in the KO8 and managed the same method to sneak by Real Club de Polo in the FINAL4 by the same method.
In Amsterdam in the GRAND FINAL, they fought off the challenge of Rotterdam 3-1 and Fuchs had an EHL gold to savour.
Another arrived in 2012 with KHC Dragons in the FINAL4 and AH&BC Amsterdam in the GRAND FINAL the victims this time.
“We managed to win in shoot-outs in the semi-final and final. We were not the better team in the final – let’s put it that way – but maybe experience of what we had done before gives you that extra push. It was a weird year but there is very much the same satisfaction.”
His fourth EHL medal came in 2015, this time in probably the most famous shoot-out of all. Over 30 minutes of shoot-outs eventually saw UHC denied a fourth EHL crown by Oranje-Zwart, settling for silver.
“It took ages! With the video referral, twice we had already lost! Once, we had already won and the video umpire took it back. A rollercoaster is the only way to describe it.
“I have never been in anything like it – nobody has! In the end, unbelievable and big disappointment and we also lost the German championships in the final that year – a year of second places with the Europeans as well.”
Fuchs had lit up the tournament with a brilliant solo goal against SV Kampong and, despite it being seven years since his EHL debut, he won the Talent of the EHL for his efforts.
UHC’s success in the EHL is in direct opposition to their performances in the Bundesliga where he is still waiting for a national title. It is something they still are unable to explain why but could have something to do with the allure of the world’s best club hockey competition.
“We have talked a lot about it, speaking with psychologists and other different people and we haven’t really figured it out why we are so strong in the EHL. Maybe winning in the first year and that team started with the big success could have an impact.
“Maybe it is a mental thing. We had many semi-finals in the national championships where we didn’t get through and there are maybe more factors that you can’t pinpoint or name one single reason.”
What he pinpoint, though, is the importance of the role of the club in his life and in his hockey development.
“When I was very young around the club, before playing in the men’s first team, I would be around the sideline, watching games and being ballboy at the Hamburg Masters. I really looked up to the players and dreamed of being at that level. These guys were my inspiration.
“Growing up with the guys in the club, you are not just playing hockey together, it is much more than that.
“Many of the people I looked up to then would define my career and how I developed outside of the pitch. It shows how strong the bond is at Hamburg and at the club and I will always be connected to it; that’s not going to go away. When I go back [to Germany], UHC is going to be my club.”
For now, though, he is focused on winning the EHL with HC Bloemendaal with whom he is completing his second season.
He says the “family nature” of the club made his transition from the club he played for since he was five-years-old was a smooth one.
“The clubs are pretty similar; both are really like a family and spend a lot of time with your fellow members,” he said of the move.
“Before I joined Bloemendaal from Hamburg, it was something that I was aware of straight away and was important for me to feel comfortable. The people from the club just love to contribute.”
And he says that will play a big part in feeding into making the FINAL4 weekend something special for the whole club and will give the home team a chance to shine on the pitch.
“It is amazing for us to, first of all, be back in the FINAL4. As a club, Bloemendaal has missed out for the last couple of years so to have it back at the club is amazing.
“I have already seen how passionate the club is for the event and how everyone around gets involved, its unbelievable. Now playing for Bloemendaal, in Bloemendaal, in the FINAL4 is going to be special and something I will remember for a very long time.”
via EHL Hockey TV | Images: WorldSportPics