Christoph Schubert (Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Former NHL defenseman Christoph Schubert had spent the past six seasons playing for Germany’s Hamburg Freezers, and as the team faced extinction, he set out to save it. But a last-ditch crowdfunding effort came up short. Tuesday, the DEL announced the Freezers will not play in 2016-17.
It’s never easy for a city to lose its team, but it’s especially difficult when the players and fans try so desperately to keep the team alive only to watch it fail. Unfortunately, that’s the case for fans of the German DEL’s Hamburg Freezers, who shuttered operations as of Tuesday and will not play in 2016-17.
Making matters worse, and even more crushing for Hamburg and their fans, is the announcement comes after the Freezers’ players tried their hand at saving the team with a crowdfunding effort, led by captain Christoph Schubert, who played 315 NHL games between the Ottawa Senators and Atlanta Thrashers and had spent the past six seasons playing for the Freezers.
The original announcement that the team would be folding came one week ago, when Miserendino stated the team had lost about $2.8 million and that AEG wished to own only one DEL team, Eisbaren Berlin. Miserendino added it had been the goal of AEG to find new ownership for Hamburg for the past five years.
With only six days to operate, Schubert went to work. Per Deutsche Welle, Schubert’s goal was to raise more than $2 million in hopes Anschultz Entertainment Group, which owns the Freezers, would spend at least one more season operating the team, essentially giving the ownership group another season to find a buyer for the team.
As the campaign opened, Schubert and the Freezers saw a surge of donations that brought them up over $400,000, but the campaign stalled over the past week and fell short. Deutsche Welle reported the final total raised was roughly $550,000 and said Schubert had found an investor to bring the team close to $1.12 million. That would have been enough to buy the club a license to play — an estimated cost of roughly $890,000 — but not enough to staff it moving forward. In the end, the effort came short.
“We are incredibly speechless and sad,” Schubert said, via Twitter. On Facebook, Schubert added that everyone was stunned by the loss of team, saying those involved are left feeling, “sad, angry, simply empty.”
It was made official Tuesday as, in a statement on the DEL website, the league announced AEG had not renewed the license for the team to continue playing in the German league. AEG, which owns the Los Angeles Kings, AHL’s Ontario Reign, ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs, SHL’s Djurgardens IF and the aforementioned DEL team Eisbaren Berlin, said they’re aware of what this means for the future of the team — whose staff, players and management are all out of work — as well as the supporters of the club.
"Since our announcement last Wednesday there was an incredible outpouring of support in Hamburg and especially the fans of the Freezers,” president and CEO of AEG Europe Tom Miserendino said in a release. “Unfortunately, we have not found a strategic partner to take over the Freezers and (keep us from running) two teams in a league. The resonance of crowdfunding and financial support from the Hamburg business were truly amazing.”
Amazing or not, though, there’s no happy ending here. After 14 seasons, the Hamburg Freezers are no more, and, as of Wednesday, all of the management, staff and players — including Schubert — became free agents.