The claws (teeth and even flippers) are out in the German Ice Hockey Bundesliga, as teams with names such as the Panthers, Polar Bears, Scorpions, Sharks, Huskies, Penguins, Eagles and Tigers compete for the title. Maybe these elite German teams thought that their players would acquire some of the strength and abilities of their animal namesakes – which is not actually too far from the mark, as ice hockey is synonymous in Germany with speed, power and fighting spirit.
For 36 seasons between 1958 and 1994, the Erste Bundesliga was Germany's top ice hockey league.It was replaced by the German Ice Hockey League during the 1994/95 season, but retained the Bundesliga name as part of its official title. The league's history has certainly had its ups and downs, and its structure has also been incredibly dynamic over the years, with the format varying from season to season. There have been round robin competitions with teams playing each other once or twice, best of fives (or even sevens), with or without play-offs, play-downs and sometimes pre-playoffs, and league membership fluctuating between 14 and 18 clubs.
Nevertheless the last few years have seen a constant rise in spectator interest, resulting in many clubs relocating to large, multi-purpose arenas with seating capacities for 10,000 people or more. Meanwhile, the German Ice Hockey League has become the third most successful in Europe – and it's still on the rise.