Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers take on Cologne Sharks in Draisaitl vs. Draisaitl battle

Everyone loves a homecoming and for the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl this is going to be one to remember.

'We want to put on a good show for Leon and his hometown and playing against his dad,' McDavid says

Leon Draisaitl talks to reporters about the preseason game in his hometown of Cologne. (CBC)

Everyone loves a homecoming and for the Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl this is going to be one to remember.

The German-born NHLer is back in his hometown to face the Cologne Sharks, a team coached by his father, Peter Draisaitl.

"I've obviously never played against him," said the younger Draisaitl who left Germany in 2012 as a 15-year-old to play junior hockey with the Prince Albert Raiders on his way to becoming an NHL star.

"We've had some pretty funny conversations about this already," he said.

The Oilers arrived in Cologne on Sunday to get acclimatized to the eight-hour time difference and get used to the Lanxess Arena, the home of the Sharks.

Cologne and the Sharks have been promoting the game since it was first announced, framing the event as a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience.

The elder Draisaitl says he can't wait for the match as it's the first time he'll face an NHL club, one that not only employs his son, but also Connor McDavid, the NHL's top player.

"I really believe for most of our players it's going to be a lifetime experience," he said. 

Draisaitl was a player in the German league for 17 years, representing his country at the Winter Olympics in 1988, 1992, and 1998.

'A little bit weird'

Since retiring as a player in 2001, the senior Draisaitl has coached six European teams, landing with the Cologne Sharks last year.

He admits watching his son race up and down the ice as an opposing player is something he never thought he'd experience.

"It'll probably be a little bit weird," he said.

Draisaitl has watched his son in person several times since he turned pro and was in Edmonton in 2017 to see the team exit the playoffs in Round 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

"It's going to be fun, because most of the Oilers roster I know at least a little bit because I was in Edmonton a couple of times and I met them around the city," he added.

"It's going to be funny seeing Connor, or Darnell you know, he's very close with Leon. There's going to be some looks going back and forth probably."

​The Draisaitls are also in for costly night. Between father and son, they expect as many as 50 family members and friends to be in crowd for the game.

"Pretty much the entire family, relatives and friends are going to be at the rink," Draisaitl said. "That doesn't happen everyday so I think it's going to be an emotional night for Leon as well."

The younger Draisaitl said he's looking forward to playing in front of the friendly crowd.

"I've played in front of pretty much all of them already before, but it'll be cool. In my hometown, people obviously root for me and I think they're all extremely excited."

For many of the Oilers, the visit to Cologne is a first and only a handful have played the game internationally.

Connor McDavid has represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships before, but the opportunity to play in a teammate's hometown, in a city where the NHL is seen only on TV is shaping up to be a pre-season game to remember.

"It's a big game for them," McDavid said. "It's our last pre-season game; we've got to be excited about that and we want to put on a good show for Leon and his hometown and playing against his dad and all that. We want to be good."

'Culture is way different'

For Tobias Rieder, the return to Germany is equally exciting. His hometown of Landshut is about a six-hour drive south of Cologne in the region of Bavaria.

Rieder, signed as a free agent from the Los Angeles Kings over the summer, sees the trip as a great chance to bond as teammates.

"The culture is way different, and I've heard guys talk about it. They're excited to see the old buildings, the old churches," he said.

Tobias Rieder, in blue, works on his faceoffs at Rogers Place. (CBC )

Going up against an opposing coach, who is the father of one of his players is a first, said Oilers coach Todd McLellan.

"My experience in that game with Leon, and Leon's dad that will be a new one for me, but it's an honour," McLellan said. 

"I know Mr. Draisaitl as an excellent hockey mind, he's a well respected coach in Europe they're very lucky to have him as their coach, and his team will be very prepared," he added.

About the Author

Min Dhariwal

Reporter/Anchor

In nearly 25 years of reporting, Min has worked all over the province covering countless breaking stories for CBC. He's also reported from the Olympics, Stanley Cup Finals, and the Grey Cup. Email: min.dhariwal@cbc.ca