It is an early morning practice for Team Germany and while the team has yet to score a goal during tournament play, team captain Marcel Goc still manages to joke around after scoring on his own goalie.
Off ice, Goc maintains a casual and positive attitude and says that the tournament is not over for Germany yet. “We have to start playing better defense and we have to score some goals,” he says. “But we don’t give up.”
Currently playing for Schwennigen in the German Elite league, the 6’1”, 187-pound German has been a boy playing against men. When Goc tired out for the German team at the tender age of 16, he impressed the coaching staff so much that they offered him a contract. In his first season, he played mainly on the third and fourth line. That season, he showed his strong offensive talents. He also showed that he was not a defensive liability against more developed players.
It was in his second year in Schwennigen that Goc really began to show his promise. Despite skating against more skilled and mature players, Goc played exceptionally well. Goc responded with 13 goals and 28 assists in 58 games, and at just 17 became one of the league’s best players.
Goc says that he has been on skates since he could walk, and where hockey has little support in a soccer-crazed nation, Goc says hockey is in his blood. “In every village there is a soccer field, and here in my very little village there is a hockey rink,” he says. “We were lucky. My father played, my older brother plays, and then I started to play.”
Goc grew up in the tiny southwestern German town of Calv, population 2,500. Different from many German boys, he played hockey before he played soccer. Although he does play soccer, he admits to shortcomings on the pitch. “I can’t handle the ball that well, but when I have it, I run. In the summer, I try, but it is not hockey.”
The closest ice is in Stuttgart, so his parents endured the 45-minute drive for their sons to learn to play hockey. Marcel began to play at the age of three or four and has always played forward. His hockey idol was Wayne Gretzky.
Goc barely remembers his first organized hockey game. “I don't remember the details. I just know we lost 30 to nothing or something,” says Goc with a grin. “We played against the older guys; I was just four or five years old.”
Goc is a well-rounded player with few weaknesses. He is fast with the puck and rarely turns it over. Back on defense, if he can get his stick on the puck, he is often responsible for moving the puck out of his zone. On the power play, he is excellent at moving the puck around. He is an excellent passer, and while not considered a big player, he is strong in the corners.
Goc does not like to boast of his skills. “I can’t describe how I play.” he says. “You would have to ask the coach. I play because it is fun and I love the game.” But Goc does have some bragging rights. He was chosen 20th overall at the 2001 Entry Draft by San Jose edging out Marco Sturm for the honour of being the highest-drafted German player.
“It was a really good feeling to be drafted. No one expected me to go in the first round.” he says. “I was surprised and excited because to play in the NHL is my goal.”
After two exhibition games in Nova Scotia, Goc has three assists, but Germany has not been able to get its game together in tournament play with a 4-0 loss to Finland and a 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic.
Goc hopes that Germany will play better, but when he gets home it’s sleep and food that he will be looking forward to the most. “There is so much good stuff,” says Goc. “I miss sauerkraut and mashed potatoes and meat, any kind of meat. Schweinbraten is good.”
And with a smile, Marcel Goc makes his way back to the dressing room to get ready for the rest of day--a team lunch and meeting, and then playing later tonight, which, for Goc, is the best part of being in Halifax, a chance to be on the ice and in front of the fans, his chance to shine.