German Top Scorer Was Once Declared a Wasted Talent

Martin KlugeContributor IJanuary 8, 2010

When NHL.com comes out with a cover story about a German hockey player, you would expect that NHL's plus-minus leader Christian Ehrhoff or Marco Sturm are of interest.

However, you have to cross the pond to come across another German player who has never been to North American ice.

Thomas Greilinger has an exceptional comeback history.

Considered as the hockey talent of the century in Germany, Greilinger wasted his talent and his career came to an early end. But after years of injury and overweight, the 28-year-old left wing is now the top scorer of the German major hockey league DEL.

"On the whole, they are right." Thomas Greilinger said about the detailed story of his life in a usual calm tone. Bob Wren, a former NHL player, informed his teammate about the surprise that he made it to NHL.com. "I had no idea," Greilinger said. "Nobody talked to me."

Greilinger first attracted interest in the 1999-2000 campaign, when he notched 53 goals and 35 assists in a men's minor league playing with his hometown club Deggendorfer SC. He was traded to Munich Barons and eventually won the German cup with this team at the end of the season. At the age of 18, the talented forward was a German international and played the men's World Championships.

He had another successful four years with Schwenningen and Nuremberg in the DEL and played 58 international games for Germany.

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But early on, he was said to be sloppy in practice and addicted to nightlife. This proved to be his undoing in 2005. After suffering a bad knee injury, "Greili" did not work hard for his comeback. He rather fell to alcohol and parties. Furthermore, Greilinger was by far overweight. The 5'10" forward exploded to a high of 286 pounds when his career came to an end at the age of 24.

Therefore, NHL.com called Greilinger "The Big Loser" in the headline and a "balloon" later in the text. "It is a part of my history," Greilinger said. "But I worked hard to reduce my weight, and now I am proud to be right back in the DEL."

After two years as an office worker, he realized how much he missed being around the hockey game. Thomas Greilinger eventually decided to take control of his weight and staged a comeback when his knee was feeling better. Again, he joined his hometown club Deggendorfer SC and collected a 58-57-115 record in just 59 games at the German Oberliga (third-tier) in the 2007-08 campaign.

"Thomas Greilinger is a player who wants to enjoy the game, and just then bring his capability to the ice," Greilingers former Deggendorf coach said. "Maybe as a professional player it is not possible to have fun on the ice every single day."

DEL club Ingolstadt ignored that conclusion when they signed Greilinger to a one-year contract in 2008.

Greilinger still worked on his shape and surprised with a 15-19-34 record in 52 games in his comeback season. The left wing finally regained his scoring ability in 2009-10. At present, he ranks first both in goals and points with a 25-26-51 record after 35 games in the DEL, whose stars mostly hail from other countries than Germany.

Though rumor in German hockey has it otherwise, Greilinger is not likely to play in the NHL soon. "I do not count on that," he said. "There are younger players over there."

Nevertheless, the NHL has seen much less skilled players in recent years.

Greilinger was called to represent his country in Vancouver in February after playing well for Team Germany recently. There, he has a real chance to get another big storyโ€”and the chance to get mentioned along with Ehrhoff and Sturm.

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