Wednesday, July 11, 2012
July by the Numbers returns to Germany for jersey #11.
Founded in 1959 as part of the Eintracht Frankfurt sports club, the Frankfurt Lions, the hockey club became it's own separate entity in 1991 and was renamed Frankfurter ESC Die Löwen (The Lions). When the DEL came into being in 1994, the club name was simplified to the Frankfurt Lions.
For their first DEL season, the Lions finished mid-pack in 10th out of 18, improving to 8th in 1995-96. A format change for the league in 1996-97 saw them finish 10th in Phase I of the season and defend their place in the DEL by defeating Ratinger Löwen in three straight games in the relegation playdowns.
A change in ownership over the summer saw new logos and colors adopted and once play began, they improved in 1997-98 to a 4th place in Phase I, before placing second in Phase II of the regular season. In the playoffs, they downed the Hannover Scorpions 3 games to 1, but were swept by defending and eventual champions Adler Manheim.
The following season they finished 4th in the regular season and won their first round playoff series in the full five games before again being knocked out in the Semifinals. 1999-00 saw a 7th place finish and a first round playoff exit before a 10th place finish in 2000-01 followed by 11th place the following season.
The 2002-03 season was a forgettable one for the Lions. They placed 13th out of 14 clubs, which forced them into the relegation playoff against the dreadful Schwenninger ERC Wild Wings, who trailed even the Lions by 25 points in the standings. Shockingly, the Wild Wings defeated the Lions 4 games to 2 to mark the Lions for demotion. The Lions were spared when the Wild Wings entered bankruptcy and had their DEL license cancelled, allowing the Lions to remain in the league after all.
Given their new lease on life, the Kions roared up the standings, raising their win total from 14 to 26 and a 5th place finish, retiring them to the playoffs thanks to league MVP and leading scorer Patrick Lebeau's 69 points. There, they knocked off the favored Cologne Sharks in six games before doing the same to the Hamburg Freezers 3 games to 2, as oddly, the first round is a best of seven, while the semifinals and finals are only a best of five. They then made the most of their second chance after being destined for relegation 12 months earlier when they defeated the Berlin Polar Bears 3 games to 1 to capture the 2004 DEL championship.
The Frankfurt Lions celebrate their 2004 DEL championship
With the 2004-05 NHL season cancelled, the Lions were able to add NHL regulars Stéphane Robidas of the Chicago Blackhawks and Doug Weight from the St. Louis Blues to their roster in mid-season. which aided the Lions in finishing first overall for the first time during the regular season with a team record 103 points from a 35-17 record. While they won their first round series, they were upset in the semifinals, costing them a chance to defend their championship.
Doug Weight while with the Lions
The club dropped to a 9th place n 2006 and came 8th in 2007, winning a preliminary round playoff series before dropping out in the first round. Success returned in 2007-08 with a 4th place finish and a quarterfinal playoff round win before dropping hard fought five game series to the Sharks, with four of the five games decided by a goal, two of which went into overtime.
Turmoil for the club began in August of 2008 when team co-founder and principal owner Gerd Schröder died at the age of 49 after having been in a coma following a stroke earlier in the year.
2008-09 had the Lions finishing 9th and then felled in the preliminary round of the playoffs. 2009-10 again saw the Lions among the league's elite teams, finishing second overall with 98 points, led by DEL scoring champion Canadian Jeff Ulmer's 37 goals and 74 points in 56 games, only to be eliminated in the quarterfinals 3 games to 1.
Sadly, their success on the ice was not reflected in the club's finances, and they were forced to cease operations following the 2010 playoffs, bringing to an end 51 years of hockey.
In the history of the club, Lebeau was their all time leading scorer with 307 points, 111 goals and 196 assists, tops in all three categories.
All-time leading scorer Patrick Lebeau
hoisting the 2004 championship trophy
Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 Frankfurt Lions John Chabot jersey. While a sponsored jersey, this style still manages to maintain the Lions identity, with their Lion head logo still prominent on the front of the jersey despite being overshadowed somewhat by the Arcor logo above it.
On the back, in typical European style, the player name is below the numbers, with the PlayStation name being given top billing across the shoulders.
The jersey is very busy visually thanks more to the ten black, silver and red stripes across the front, and would be better off without the pair of black stripes behind the lion's head.
One very unique feature of the jersey is the skyline of Frankfurt appearing in the sleeve stripes, a simple and effective way to make the jersey a memorable one.
John Chabot was an NHL veteran, having played with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit from 1983 to 1991 before moving to Germany where he played for nine seasons, three of which were with the Lions, where his veteran experience led to him being named team captain.
Today's video section is Lebeau scoring for the Lions scoring against the Polar Bears in the 2004 DEL finals.