The Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) Eagles ice hockey organization has been around in one form or another since the 1950's. One of our players, Mike Mamer, can recall playing for the Eagles in 1979, team named CANUSA. Yes, it was a combined team of American and Canadian players, which played at the Zweibrucken Air Base rink. The team played friendly games throughout Germany and Luxembourg, especially against Canadian teams at other NATO locations such as Baden Baden and Lahr.
The history of the team during the 80's becomes a little sketchy, but mostly the team dwindled to pick-up games and occasional invitation to play other teams.
Benny King played for the team from 1988 to 1993, when they were known as the "Warriors". They were pretty much the same mix of Active duty and Civilians as the current team. They started out playing teams from Bitburg and Spangdahlem and local German teams: KTown, Mannheim. They also played at the two Canadian bases at Lahr and Baden Baden, where there were a bunch of squadron teams where they played both home and away.
The Warriors joined the German League in 1989 and played in the Landes league during the first year and beat the pants off all of the German teams. They were promoted to the Regional league and had some good games. After the Canadians left Zweibrucken in 1991, things slowed down quite a bit. The bar that sponsored the team closed and they only had a few players coming in from Ramstein and K-town.
Following the Canadians departure, the American military took responsibility for the base to include the ice rink, renaming the team to USA Ambassadors. They expanded the area of playing friendly games to teams in and around Paris, France. On one occasion, the USA Ambassadors traveled to Odensee, Denmark for a NATO tournament, only to find the game was field hockey.
In 2001, the team was renamed to the Ramstein Rams, led by John Hoffman and Frank Barker, playing pickup and friendly games around Germany.
In 2004, under the new leadership of Tom Duggan, the name changed to the KMC Eagles, to encompass the KMC area of 50,000 military forces (U.S./NATO) and host nationals. The team averaged about 20 players during the season, welcoming any skill level to help off-set the costs of being an ice hockey organization.
Expanding beyond friendly games, the KMC Eagles were invited to play in a newly formed German league known as the Die Players Liga www.dpliga.com, managed by an American Educator, Ken Robinson.
The league consisted of 8 teams. Struggling through the season with one goalie, the KMC Eagles was challenged with maintaining a strong enough roster to be competitive, averaging about 9 to 10 players per game. In the league's second year, the KMC Eagles won the DPL championship.
In 2005, Tom Duggan was scheduled to deploy, missing the start of the upcoming season. Seeking a replacement, the old timers nominated Todd Poynter to take the reins of the newly formed team, a novice player to the game but connected to the NHL by his father, Anthony "Tony" Mancuso. With the support of his wife, Paulette, and his family, Todd decided to take the position of President of the KMC Eagles.
Knowing that the team was in need of new players, Todd was aggressive in marketing the KMC Eagles to the community in hopes of recruiting new talent to replace the outgoing players that were returning to the U.S. At the first practice, approximately 47 new players were on the ice, rounding the four corners of the rink during drills, a concern for high flying slap shots over the net. Paul Hilfer an ex-academy team captain and now Eagles coach had concerns on how to satisfy the amount of players with enough ice time for games and practices. An issue Todd would have to resolve in the next year. One of the highlights of the season is playing the Luxembourg National team during an end-of-season tournament, 15-0 loss to the Eagles.
In 2007, Todd decided to create a second team as the KMC Adlers, known in German as "Eagles". Both teams, KMC Eagles and KMC Adlers were entered into the DPL for league games and the USAFE Armed Forces Tournament, an annual military event for the past 15 years. Tom Duggan had returned from his deployment to assist the coach, John Nagy, with managing the KMC Eagles, placing second at the USAFE tournament. This was the highest level achieved. The KMC Adlers led by Scott Smith, placed eight.
In 2008, the roster for the organization continued to grow, with an email distribution list of more than 90 players. As the two teams became stronger, the teams were a more formidable force with the league and friendly games in and out of Germany. Under the coach of Phil Forward and assistant coach Tony Mancuso, the KMC Eagles again placed 2nd in the USAFE Tournament. The KMC Adlers placed eight, but with more goals scored during the event.
In 2009, Brian O'Connor (player/coach) took the KMC Eagles to a banner year, winning the DPL Championship against the Baden Bruins (arch rivals), DPL Harder Cup, Prague New Year Tournament, and most importantly, the USAFE Armed Forces Tournament. The KMC Adlers under the management of Mike Mamer, and late in the season, Parker Hamilton, continued to show team development like a young Eagles team, placing sixth in USAFE, and winning numerous friendly and league games.
A season highlight was the Eagles playing against the German 2nd league team, Zweibrucken Hornets, with over 450 paying fans and professional photographers in attendance.
Since 2009, the KMC Eagles have won the USAFE tournament 5 years consecutively!
Tragically, on the morning after hockey practice on March 2nd, 2011, we lost an Eagle, A1C Zachary Cuddeback, as he was killed during a terrorist shooting in Frankfurt.
Zac's memory lives on forever in our organization as we have swarmed in numbers to the Annual 5K that is assembled in his memory.
We have also just recently decided to run our own hockey tournament and this fall's tournament will be the 1st Annual Cuddeback Cup.
In spring 2012, after nearly a decade of dedication to our hockey organization, Todd Poynter stepped down and handed over the Eagles Presidency to Eric "the Red" Helgeson.
A new website was designed, a new Facebook page created...but the spirit and idea of this great hockey family change at all.
In March of 2013, the Eagles played in the annual Zoetemeer (Amsterdam), Netherlands tournament. They came back in "Miracle" fashion to beat a French team that crushed them during the opening game of the tournament, crowning them the Division I Champions!
In the 2012/2013 ice season, the Eagles organization conducted 52 practices, played in over 52 league & friendly games and 5 tournaments in 3 European countries. The support and dedication from the players to take on key roles, offer assistance, and to play whenever, wherever is what makes us strong, like no other hockey team. The overall success of the season was largely in part to player’s families, supporting late games and practices, traveling to other countries, out-of-pocket expenses for equipment and hotels, and all the while, showing support in cold ice rinks.
We look forward to another exciting and challenging year with many of the old timers moving on during the summer. Contact us if you would like to add more historical events or facts to the webpage.
Eric "the Red"