Divided by his love for both indoor and outdoor, Michael Körper is a thirsty hockey player. After getting to the top, both with Harvestehuder THC (HTHC) and Austria, Körper wants more. He hates to lose and picks up there to fight to win. Welcome to revolution number 9!
Words: Tiago Marques
“HTHC is the best way to play hockey on a high level and work on my academic career. HTHC is my home”
Regarding his conduct, his way of being, charisma and personality, he could be on the center of any kind of revolution anywhere in the World, but soon he «chose» hockey and the revolution started there.
Michael Körper is 31 years old, but has a lot to give to the sport. We don’t know if he did choose hockey or hockey chose him. Before looking for his background, we had a look over his avid personality. The HTHC forward wants more and more everyday and doesn’t hold his thoughts. In January 2017, Körper underlined in an interview ( https://www.abendblatt.de/sport/article209412913/Michael-Koerper-kritisiert-die-Mentalitaet-seines-Teams.html ) something that was lacking Harvestehuder. In the number 9’s opinion, he only sees Tobi Hauke as an exceptional player in the team: “I said that in January, but I haven’t changed that much. We are a good team with good players, but Tobi is a player on a different level. With him, and the team’s spirit as well as the strength of each player, we set up a strong team that can compete against almost every team. Only if you play at full strength you can give your best hockey and reach what you want”. This doesn’t mean that Körper is unhappy: “I had some offers from clubs abroad, but I was always thinking about my academic and working career. So, for me, the HTHC is the best way to play hockey on a high level and work on my academic career. HTHC helped me there and because of that and many other things, HTHC is my home”.
Michael Körper’s mindset looks like one of his strongest points and it came easy for the Austria’s international player: “I just hate losing and if you don‘t want to lose you have to give 100%. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but it gives you the fire you need”.
“I learned from every season and worked hard for that. (…) I learned the most from the situations where I failed”
Born and raised in Vienna, Austria’s capital, Körper’s family is all about hockey: “I started playing hockey at 4 years old. My grandfather played hockey and my parents did too. So, I grew up on the hockey pitch. There was no other option!”.
Even if hockey is not a big deal in Austria, we can’t say it’s a small deal: “I’m from Vienna, a beautiful city but not a big hockey town. There are five clubs in Vienna and I started playing for WAC. I have good memories from them, I collected a few Austrian youth championships”.
Michael Körper is known for goal scoring, including penalty corners and he has some advices to give: “You have to be focused, train hard and at the same time also have to be patient because it won‘t work perfectly from the beginning”. Basically, a constant work in progress is a fundamental part of the game. In some competitions the rule of penalty corners has changed and the Austrian forward isn’t a big fan of it: “Penalty corner is important in our sport. The idea that a field goal is worth 2 goals and a penalty corner goal just worth one goal could be a good idea, but as we saw it in the EHL it dims the chances of smaller teams to compete against the bigger ones. It’s cool to see it in the Hockey India League cause the teams are pretty much the same level, but to do it now like it’s in the EHL, it’s not really good”.
The HTHC number 9 has some similarities with Mirco Pruyser as for being a goal machine, but the Austrian player underlines that everything came with work: “As forward, it’s essential to score goals, do the running routes, save the ball in the last quarter and win the fights about the position in the «D». Positioning, nowadays, feels like something natural for me, but that’s because I’m 31 and I’m experienced now. It wasn’t like this from the start. I learned from every season and worked hard for that. I may sound stupid, but I learned the most from the situations where I failed”. Being like that, Michael Körper isn’t a «finished book»: “I think I can improve in my one on one situations”.
“Mirco Pruyser is the best forward in the world nowadays”
Last month we spoke with Mirco Pruyser (Read here) but he was mentioned again in this interview. It’s not an easy task to select the best in the world in one position but Körper stands out the Dutch: “There are a lot of great players. To be honest, I would say Mirco Pruyser is the best forward in the world nowadays”. The HTHC striker should know who is good in the «D» as well, who’s good on trying to stop the forwards. In this case, he selects a German international: “Like with the forwards there are also many good defenders. I would say that the best is Martin Häner, but I don’t fear any defender!”. In the turf, it doesn’t look like he fears anyone. Goal after goal, the Austrian international had to take some time to think before selecting his best goals, both at indoor and outdoor: “My best outdoor goal was the backhand stroke against Oranje Zwart during the EHL in Amsterdam. I would select that one. As for the best indoor goal, I choose the equalizer (5-5) against Russia in the semifinal of the Europeans, in Prague 2016.”
The goal count doesn’t stop and it seems to become higher in the next months…but even so, Michael Körper doesn’t see himself as a goalkeeper terminator: “I just hate losing. Scoring a lot is the best way to keep you away from losing. As a forward and a drag flicker I have a double chance to score goals but I don’t think that I’m a goalkeeper terminator”.
“Almere is a big place for me. That’s a moment I will remember forever”
Along with Austria indoor national team colleagues, Michael Körper was European Champion, in Almere, in The Netherlands, in 2010. A golden moment for the country sport and a moment that the number 9 won’t forget: “Almere is a big place for me. We won the European Nations Championship for the first time in Austrian hockey history! It was amazing. That’s a moment I will remember forever. Especially given that I scored the golden goal. Just amazing!”.
In his curriculum, the HTHC forward has won the EHL in 2014, has been European Champion (club/indoor) in 2014 and 2016 and European Champion (indoor) in 2010 with Austria. Also U21, European Champion (indoor) in 2007 for his nation. Not a bad trophy list for someone who was born and raised in Austria, but Körper doesn’t think that nationality should be a problem on your way to be one of the best: “If you are one of the best it doesn‘t matter which nationality you have. The only thing I can say is that, as a German or a Dutch player, you have more chances to show your value because their teams and national teams are always in the big tournaments”.
And the 31 year-old wants to be there too:”To play the Olympic Games is the dream of every hockey player, but outdoor is always harder than indoor. I think in the last years we, Austria, increased our level outdoors. Unluckyly we relegated from the A Division this summer, but if we are going to work hard, I think we are able to come back again as soon as possible. To be part of a tournament like the Olympics it’s different. It’s a long way, but we will fight as hard as we can to achieve that too”.
The future career is coming, but it’s not coming right now. The Austrian player still focuses on hockey, even if he has always taken care of his academic path. Economics was his option: “I finished my bachelor this fall. It’s essential to work on your academic career during hockey. You won’t get rich like in football and that is good. You have to work on that so if you’re done with hockey you are prepared in the best way to start your working career. And in our big hockey family you can benefit from the network in your club”.
What would you do if you weren’t a hockey player? Or if hockey didn’t exist?
I don’t want to think about that! I’m lucky it’s not even possible.
Indoor or outdoor? Why?
I really like both! It makes a good switch so hockey will not get boring!
Who is your hockey idol?
I don’t have an idol now. When I was younger it was Peter Proksch, from Austria.
What are your future plans as a player and in hockey?
My plan is to play the EHL again, win the German league with HTHC (indoor and outdoor) and get a medal at the Europeans and the World Championship with Austria in the next months
What do you think of hockey nowadays? You support the way the game has been changing and developing?
Yeah, I like it. There were some good rule changes, which made the sport faster and more attractive.
What do you think is lacking hockey to get into even more audiences worldwide?
That’s also a difficult one. I think I don’t have an answer for that. The guys who are in charge are doing their best and it’s in a good way.
Do you think that social media are important for that? Is that something important to you?
Yeah, sure that’s really important. You have to be present on every channel, but in a good way. Not only the FIH or EHF should do that. The clubs and national teams have to do that as well, but that’s the difficult part about this, because not every club or national team has a staff just for social media. Mostly the players have to do that and if you are focused on a tournament, it’s not that easy to be present all the time on social media.
What do you like the most about hockey?
I like the fact that it doesn’t matter where you play, hockey is a big family and our sport is connecting everybody with each other. I also like that it’s technically demanding and it’s entertaining because of skillful players.
What do you like less about hockey?
That’s a difficult question, but I think that there are too many rules changes to make it more attractive for “non hockey players“. Like I said before, some rule changes were good, like the self-pass, but I think we don’t have to change our game too much to make it more attractive.
Would you change something in hockey? What?
If I could change one thing I would try to stream every Bundesliga game in Germany. In that way, our sport would be more present, maybe more attractive for sponsors, and also the video referee would be possible.
Do you have anything else to add? Any message that you want to send to yours’s and hockey’s fans worldwide?
Please come to Antwerp, in January, and to Berlin, in February, and support us during the Europeans and the World Cup!