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Rafael Rotter is a legend in Austrian ice hockey. © APA / HANS PUNZ

The AlpsHL royal transfer: “For me, points are irrelevant”

Rafael Rotter moved from the Vienna Capitals in the ICE Hockey League to EC Kitzbühel in the Alps Hockey League in July and was therefore the king transfer of the summer. In the interview, the 36-year-old explains, among other things, how the move to Kitzbühel came about and what goals he has for the North Tyroleans.

The 2017 ICE champion and 2018 MVP also looks at upcoming opponents Rittner Buam SkyAlps and league leaders Hockey Unterland Cavaliers. Rotter is also a well-known name in South Tyrol. The fans of HC Bozen were often able to watch the “aggressive leader” of the Caps at work in the Sparkasse Arena. Here is the interview:

You have now played three games in the Alps Hockey League. What are your first impressions in a league that is new to you?

Rafael Rotter: “The Alps Hockey League is a really good league. Of course it can't be compared with the ICE Hockey League, but every team has very good players and every team can be dangerous. I really enjoy playing in this league. I’m challenged every day and that’s what you want as a professional.”

How did the move to Kitzbühel come about? Did you also have other offers, or did it quickly become clear to you that you were moving to Kitzbühel?

“My goal and plan was actually to stay with the Vienna Capitals for the next one or two years. But Vienna decided to take the younger route, which I of course accepted. I then briefly considered joining another club in the ICE, but then I decided that if I was in the ICE, then only in Vienna. I was then in contact with Zell am See, and I also talked to Philipp Ulrich in Kitzbühel, who is one of my best colleagues. I also had a good connection to Kitzbühel with head coach Marco Pewal and the club put a lot of effort into me, which is why I finally moved to Kitzbühel. I’m very happy that I’m playing in Kitzbühel now.”

Rafael Rotter, here in action against Meran.

What is life like in Kitzbühel? Have you gotten used to “country life” yet, or do you miss the big city?

“Kitzbühel is of course a different place. Compared to Vienna, Kitzbühel is a village, but a village with a lot of possibilities and I feel very comfortable. I love doing sports and a lot is possible here with the mountains and lakes. I often sit on my bike and climb various mountains. I’m also looking forward to winter, as you know a lot is possible here.”

At Kitzbühel you are one of the most experienced players. How much do you see yourself as a leader?

“I think I am a contact person for many players and I think all players know that I am always available to give tips and advice. But we have some experienced players in the team who are all very down-to-earth. It’s very important to have a lot of leaders leading a team.”

A picture from last year: Rafael Rotter (left) hits Mike Halmo in the head. Both have fought countless duels. © Vanna Antonello

Do you also try to influence the young players by giving them tips or encouraging them when they make a mistake?

“Not just on the young players. I think my thinking has always been that you can always keep learning, regardless of whether you are young or old. I also learn something new every day, including from the young players. Of course I try to give tips in certain game situations and I think I can pass on a lot.”

You started the season very well with seven points. What are your goals for the season?

“The fact that we have gotten seven points so far is very important, but that is also our goal and my requirement, not only of me but of the team, that we give everything in every game and try to win every game. Every point counts because we only play against each team twice in the regular season. Our goal is to get into the top 6, but that won't be an easy task, we know that. The league is very balanced.”

“It’s important to be a player on the ice that you don’t like playing against.” Rafael Rotter

You also had a good start personally with one goal and four assists. How satisfied are you with your start to the season?

“For me the points are irrelevant. A good player makes other players better, I think. And a good player is not just measured by points. The important thing is to be a player on the ice that you don't like playing against. If you then score a lot of points, it obviously looks good, but I would rather be champion with just a few points than be bottom of the table and top scorer. If we play well as a team, the points will come naturally anyway.”

This week, two difficult opponents await you: the Rittner Buam and the current league leaders Hockey Unterland Cavaliers. What is your objective for the two showdowns?

“Ritten is a very good team. We definitely have a lot of respect for them, but we will try to force our game on them, which will definitely not be an easy task. The same applies on Saturday against Unterland. They are currently the undefeated league leaders. I think both games can point the way in terms of the table. That’s why we have to concentrate fully and get as many points as possible.”

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