International Ice Hockey Federation

Lebler finds home in Linz

Lebler finds home in Linz

Austrian forward hopes for top-division comeback

Published 28.04.2017 15:23 GMT+3 | Author Martin Merk
Lebler finds home in Linz
Brian Lebler skates with the puck in Austria’s game against Ukraine. Photo: Andri Basevych
With a regulation-time win against Poland (or help from the other teams), Austria hopes to earn promotion today and return to the top division.

The Austrians lead the standings before the last game day and are, together with Korea, in the most comfortable situation. These two teams have it in their own hands to earn a top-two spot and promotion to the top division for the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark.

Austria recovered from an opening day loss to Kazakhstan, 3-2, and won the next three games against Hungary, Ukraine and Korea. In the fourth round they were the first team to beat the surprising Koreans and blanked them even 5-0.

“We played a lot of games in a short period of time. You just try to stick to the game plan best as possible, try to make the least amount of mistakes and sometimes you’re going to be lucky. I think we had a few more bounces going for us and that was the difference,” Brian Lebler commented the game.

“We need to get some rest and it’s another game day. It’s our goal to move back up so we know what’s on the line.”

Lebler is the son of former Austrian national team player Edward Lebler, who moved in 1981 from Canada to Austria, the country his parents once came from in the ‘50s. He won five championships with Klagenfurt and Villach and played two Olympics for his adopted country as well as several B-Pool World Championships.

Brian Lebler was born in Klagenfurt and grew up in Austria before moving back to Canada with his family. But he returned to the country of his ancestors.

“I grew up in Villach and Zell am See, my dad played hockey then. I spent some years in Canada after 1993 and I came back in 2011 so I’ve been kind of all over the place,” Lebler said.

Like his father he played junior hockey in British Columbia before moving to a U.S. college. After one professional season in the AHL and ECHL he decided to move into his father’s footsteps in Austria and chose Linz.

“Linz is my city. For me the thing that makes it home to me is the people. A lot of the guys from here are from Linz, that just shows what kind of a city it is,” he said.

He still has to work a bit on his German but can get by. “I like the food, lifestyle and people. I like anything traditional. Wiener Schnitzel, Schweinebraten, I’ll eat it,” he said.

And probably Leberkäse. That’s the nickname one of his teammates was shouting to him during the interview. It’s sort of a loaf of baked sausage meat popular in the area that literally means “liver cheese”.

Lebler is in this fifth season with Linz. He became eligible to play for the country after his two seasons – right in time to participate at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Kyiv is his fourth World Championship event including one (2015) in the top division.

Just last season he spent away, trying to make it in the top German league DEL with ERC Ingolstadt. Although the numbers were descent with 25 points in 49 games, he decided to come back to Linz where he’s a star forward.

“For me I didn’t play the game I needed to succeed and move on in that league,” he said. “I had a good opportunity to come back to Linz, my hometown. For me and my family it’s always special so we couldn’t say no.”

After coming back to Liniz with his Canadian wife and their kids, he had 32 goals and 57 points in the regular season, more than ever. And he was in good shape when Austria blanked Korea yesterday.

Now Poland is next today, and maybe promotion.

“Every game starts 0-0 and we prepare every game the same way. We know a lot about the other teams but in the end we focus on our own strengths,” head coach Roger Bader said heading into the deciding game.


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