International Ice Hockey Federation

Austria wins Raffls

Austria wins Raffls

Brothers lead nation’s attempt to stay up

Published 08.05.2015 11:55 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Austria wins Raffls
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 5: Austria's Thomas Raffl #5 and Michael Raffl #12 - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Thomas Raffl is team captain for Austria. Michael has just finished a successful second season in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Together they’re trying to earn their country an invitation to the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Russia. Yesterday they took time out to discuss the team, their careers, and their family.

Q: How did you start in hockey?

Thomas: Our dad used to be a professional player in the Austrian league, so he brought us to the rink a lot when he was still playing. That’s how we developed a love for hockey.

Michael: That’s all we did when we were kids was play hockey. After school, whenever we had free time. We’d grab our sticks and play street hockey. We were born into that hockey thing, I’d say.

Q: Did you often play together on the same team growing up?

Michael: We’re two and a half years apart, so we’re always missed each other by one year. Sometimes I was able to play with the older group for a few games, but I was always small, so I wasn’t able to play with them.

Q: Some say the older brother has an advantage and others say the younger. What about with you guys?

Michael: It’s both. Everything we did, table tennis or tennis or any sport, he always dominated me. I’m still trying to catch up in some sports but I just can’t do it still. But ever since we were 15 or 16 and started to play hockey more competitively, we help each other more than we compete with each other. It’s a healthy, competitiveness. We help each other out.

Q: How would you describe your style of play?

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Thomas: I try to keep the game simple. I try to get the puck to the net, try to use my strength. It’s a physical game. I try to be a dominant player on the ice. The best area for me is down low in the corners, and be strong. Try to beat guys to the net and get lots of shots.

Michael: I have a different role on the national team than in the NHL. I play more of a centre role, have the puck, try to be creative and create some scoring chances.

Q: Thomas, why did you decide to play junior in Canada for a year?

Thomas: I had the chance to start playing pro when I was 16, so I played for two years, and then there was the NHL lockout and our club had some players over, Jason Krog, Ethan Moreau. I was young, and I had a chance to play with them, and I had a pretty good year. They helped me get a chance to play in the WHL, and everyone knows there are a lot of scouts. I was trying to promote myself to play in higher leagues. It turned out to be really hard if you’re not used to the smaller ice surfaces.

Q: Michael, you were never drafted, so how did you get into the NHL?

Michael: I went to Sweden and played with really good players. We had a good team. Filip Forsberg was there. A couple of players from the KHL were there, and they’re in the NHL now. There were always scouts at the games, and I kept working hard. It was always my dream to play in the NHL. I had a pretty good year in my second year and came to the World Championship in Helsinki. That’s when people first started asking me if I wanted to go to North America at some point in my career, and I said yes right away. That it worked out like that was a dream come true.

Q: When did you first represent your country at the same time?

Michael: The first time we played together was 2011 in Kosice. I got injured after three games. That’s the only thing I remember. It’s not such a nice memory. When I think back, I don’t even remember Thomas being there!

Q: The Austrians get promoted then demoted, promoted then demoted. Where is the national program at now?

Michael: I think we’re going in a better direction now. We have a really young team. We don’t have a lot of veteran guys, but we’re a hungry group of guys who work hard every day. We’re here for one reason, and that’s to stay up. And if everyone plays for the team, we have a chance to do that.

Thomas: We’re going in a good direction with the Austrian Federation right now, and we’re making good progress. Obviously, we don’t have that many players in Austria. We always have to hope that when the World Championship comes, we have every player available. We can’t have too many injuries. I’m really surprised at how well our defencemen are doing here. Most of them come from the Austrian league, but we have so many imports, they have a different role. As a group, we know we can win hockey games.

Q: You guys teamed up for a huge goal in the first game of the tournament, tying the game against Switzerland late in the third period and then winning in a shootout. Has that happened often?

Michael: That was our first time being in on the same goal in a World Championship. That felt nice. It was a big goal.

Q: Why do you wear numbers 5 and 12?

Michael: My dad always had number 5, and they retired his number. Thomas was the first to make the team, so he got to choose our dad’s number. When I made the team it wasn’t available, of course, so I was just given 12. I just stuck to it.

Q: What is your top career memory so far?

Michael: It’s always nice to win something, so one of my best moments was when we earned promotion to the Elitserien with Leksand. It was quite a sick moment. On the other hand, I’ll always remember my first NHL game.

Thomas: If you win a championship, it’s always nice. We won it this year again with Salzburg. Another nice moment was when we played in the Olympic Qualification and beat Germany.

Michael: Yeah, lots of good memories.


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