Winnipeg-born Macek helps Germany to upset win over Canada in Olympic hockey
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GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of — Ignored by Canada after age 16, Brooks Macek had to go overseas to carve out a professional hockey career.
Some nine years later, he drove the first nail into Team Canada's gold-medal hopes at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
The Winnipeg-born forward scored the opening goal for Germany against the sport's superpower in Friday's Olympic semifinal, a breakthrough that would culminate in a historic 4-3 victory for the European hockey minnows.
Macek ripped a shot shortside through a screen on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period to put Canada's non-NHLers on their heels. The Germans, who all play in the country's 14-team domestic league, would eventually go up 3-0 and then 4-1 before hanging on late in a wild third period that saw them outsot 15-1.
"These guys in this dressing room ... they're like my brothers now," Macek said. "It's like a big family. To win that game means a lot.
"It's an amazing feeling, and it's a huge day for German ice hockey."
The fact that he calls it "ice hockey" probably shows the country's interest level in the sport up to now.
Macek, who played for Canada as an under-17 but was never called on by the national program again, hopes Friday's stunning result will help change that as Germany now prepares to take on the Russian team in Sunday's final.
"It's absolutely huge," he said. "The main sport there is soccer and then there's nothing else. It's just all soccer. If there's kids back home watching this game, maybe it'll push them towards playing ice hockey now that they see us playing for gold.
"It's absolutely massive for the sport in Germany."
But it was a bitterly disappointing day in the country where he learned the game.
Macek, whose father and grandparents emigrated from Germany to Winnipeg, left home at 13 to attend the prestigious hockey factory of Notre Dame in Saskatchewan before playing five seasons of junior in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen.
A sixth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, he never signed with the NHL club. As a dual Canadian-German citizen, Macek looked across the Atlantic Ocean to continue his hockey career.
He played three seasons with the Iserlohn Roosters, and has spent the last two in Munich with EHC Red Bull Munchen.
"My first year I had a great coach who liked me, played me a lot and I think I kind of just ran with the opportunity," said Macek, who has played at the last two world championships for Germany. "Now being in Munich, we won the (title) last year. Now being here, it's been an amazing run."
Life in Munich, as it is at the moment in Pyeongchang, is great.
"We've got Oktoberfest," the 25-year-old said with a smile. "September and October are pretty good months. A lot of visitors, a lot of beer."
And the beer will no doubt be flowing after Friday's victory over the defending Olympics champions, albeit minus their superstars.
"I think (Germany has) got a pretty big idea of what the big countries are — Canada, U.S., Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia," Macek said. "For us to come into this tournament and march all the way to (play for) gold is pretty amazing."
The Germans finished 10th in the preliminary round, getting past Norway 2-1 after losing 5-2 to Finland and 1-0 to Sweden.
Their improbable run that went to new heights against Canada — which now meets the Czechs for bronze on Saturday — started with a 2-1 overtime victory against Switzerland in the playoff qualification round before Wednesday's 4-3 overtime upset of Sweden.
"We believed in doing something really special here from the day we met three weeks ago," said defenceman Christian Ehrhoff, who played for six NHL teams, including Vancouver. "The belief was always there.
"Everybody's working for the guy next to him. We can be really proud right now of what we've accomplished."
Assured of at least a silver in South Korea, Germany's only other podium finishes in Olympic hockey before this tournament were the bronze medals it won in 1932 and 1976, the latter a Games where Canada declined to even send a team.
Now this group is making new memories.
"It took every single guy in our dressing room to put forth his best effort for the entire 60 minutes," Macek said. "It came down to the last minute.
"It's unbelievable. It's an amazing feeling."
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