Don’t look now, but Germany is making a little noise at the 2008 World Junior Hockey Challenge in Camrose, Alberta after finishing second in Pool B standings in the round robin. Their success stems from their 5-2 upset of team USA and it’s interesting to note that they won that game without their marquee forward, Jerome Flaake, who was a fifth round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008.
Flaake, (pronounced Flaw-kay), got into hockey at age 7 when his mother enrolled him in a program at school. Even though most of his friends were playing soccer, he has little interest in the sport and finds the ice much more interesting.
"Soccer is more popular in Germany but my friends are all playing hockey," Flaake said. "I know some friends that play soccer but… I don’t like soccer; it’s boring. Hockey is more of a crazy sport… I like it."
Flaake is listed at 6’2 and 185 lbs and says that he likes to use his size to his advantage.
"I like to hit and I think I have good skills and a good shot, a power forward." he said.
With a handful of Germans playing in the NHL, it would be natural to expect that Flaake would look to them for inspiration. He identified both Jochen Hecht and Marco Sturm as players most of his German peers look up to, but suprisingly, Flaake’s hockey hero isn’t all that much older than he is and comes from Canada.
"I like Corey Perry for Anaheim, I like his style and how he plays," said Flaake, who was then asked how he follows the exploits of Perry. "I can watch on my TV and computer so I have a chance to watch NHL games."
The Maple Leafs are one of the most storied franchises in all of sport let alone the NHL, but does a kid from Germany feel the same prestige being of being chosen by the team that someone from this side of the Atlantic might have? Tough to say, but Flaake made it very clear that he’s a European who has had his eye on the NHL his entire life.
"It was my dream to be drafted to the NHL and that dream has come true and that’s unbelievable," he said. "It’s a great feeling."
That said, fans of the Buds can be pleased with the knowledge that not only will Flaake come to North America, but if he has his way it will be sooner rather than later.
"I want to come to Canada and play but I have a contract in Cologne. After my contract I will come here to play in Canada," he confirmed. "After this season I have one season more but I might have a chance to get out of the contract."
If he can negotiate his release, Flaake would like to transfer to Canada to play major junior and his rights have already been picked up in last year’s CHL Import Draft.
"I was drafted by Prince George in the Western Hockey League so if I can go to the junior leagues I will go there," he smiled. "I hope [to be there next year], that would be great."
Flaake had an assist in Germany’s opening game of the 2008 WJAC but sat out from the 5-2 win over USA with an undisclosed minor injury. Team Germany assistant coach Jeff Tomlinson, a native Canadian, spoke very highly of Flaake and what type of player he is.
"Jerome, for us in Germany, he’s a power forward with skill. He’s got good size, skates really well, and that’s why he was drafted," said Tomlinson. "He’s almost a prototypical Canadian."
Interestingly, the German national program would have liked to have seen Flaake playing for the Prince George Cougars this year and, like they did with goalie Timo Pielmeier (SJ), will be proactive in trying to encourage the transfer.
"We feel that for him it would be the best thing for his development but unfortunatly he’s got a situation where [Cologne] wouldn’t let him out of his contract, but they’re not playing him over there either," said Tomlinson. "It’s frustrating for us on the national team and it’s frustrating for him. We’re going to try and support him in that and help get him over [to Canada].
Asked to explain what stands in the way of making it happen, Tomlinson said it will take a meeting of the minds.
"It comes down to sitting down with the team, the management, his agent and his father, him and everybody involved and saying ‘let’s do what is best for this kid because right now we’re not doing that’ and he needs to come over here and play," Tomlinson said.
Germany hopes to have Flaake back in time for their opening playoff game against Belarus and for the rest of the WJAC.