The Ice Hockey Follies, With Qaddafi Starring : “The Leader Was Pleased”


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The United Nations Follies the other day, with Libyan leader Qaddafi staring?

Those who cannot learn from history ARE condemned to repeat it.

And so, after noting Qaddafi’s interesting take on matters with his speech at the U.N. this week, we wax poetically with West German ice hockey here at the IRONPIGPEN…
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“THE ICE HOCKEY FOLLIES, WITH QADDAFI STARING”

Serge Schmemann
New York Times
January 9, 1988

Striding languidly into the large, brightly colored Bedouin tent with his flowing brown cape swept over his arm, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi declared to the two dozen West German sportswriters that he had watched an ice hockey game on videotape and approved of it. It is not a violent game, he declared, but a mass sport people like.

After bantering for about an hour about sport, his “Green Book”, the American bombing of his home and politics (the Libyan leader proclaimed himself in favor of a reunited Germany freed of American “occupation”), Colonel Qadaffi rose to accept a souvenir plate of the Iserlohn hockey club from its owner, Heinz Weifenbach.

(EDITOR’s NOTE – THE GREEN BOOK first published in 1975 outlines the Libyan leaders views on democracy and his political philosophy. Some have referred to it as a Boy Scout manual for terrorists throughout the years.)

Mr. Weifenbach, a cigar-chomping owner of a construction company, had turned to Libya two months earlier in a desperate attempt to stave off the dissolution of his bankrupt team and had shocked West Germans by returning with a $ 900,000 contract to advertise the Green Book, Colonel Qaddafi’s collected wisdom, on his team’s jerseys.

Though Colonel Qaddafi is reputed to have a fancy for meddling in other people’s conflicts, his sally into the world of West German ice hockey was considered most curious. For one thing, the sport is not well known in the Libyan desert, and for another, Colonel Qaddafi’s dictum that “public sport is a public need and the people cannot be represented by others in its practice” (“The Green Book”, part 3, page 135) is a fixture on propaganda placards.

But the lavish reception given Mr. Weifenbach and the reporters, including one American who had written about the Iserlohn affair before, suggested that Colonel Qaddafi was prepared to defend his investment, or at least reap what public relations opportunities it offered.

Even before the meeting with Colonel Qaddafi on Wednesday, the visitors were accorded a formal welcome Tuesday evening on the tarmac of the Tripoli airport by a committee of sports officials and treated to a banquet replete with swirling desert dancers, elaborate toasts and a spit-roasted lamb paraded through the hall.

The visit, arranged on very short notice, added a bizarre twist to what was already an entirely unusual dispute.

Mr. Weifenbach’s agreement with the World Center for the Studies and Research of the Green Book to advertise the book did not staunch his problems. The German ice hockey federation refused to let the team wear the jerseys with the book on them, and a court-appointed receiver started selling off the club’s players.

But Mr. Weifenbach, an earthy, self-made man who had built Iserlohn in six years into a serious contender in the top West German league – often through questionable financing, tax authorities contend – fought back in the courts and in the press.

Not surprisingly, the squabbled generated considerable coverage, much of it critical of the Libyan connection, and it was this that evidently prompted the Libyans to bring Mr. Weifenbach and a group of sports reporters to Tripoli.

“We were astonished with what was said and written about the agreement between the World Center and the club,” declared the center’s head, Ibrahim Abdurrahman Ibjad, sitting under an enourmous potrait of Colonel Qaddafi, a fixture in every public hall in Tripoli, with Mr. Weifenbach at his side. “It is a cultural achievement between two institutions, and we believe that it is through activities like this that we will achieve freedom in the world.”

Mr. Weifenbach, setlling with apparent ease into the role of an envoy of good will, offered “best regards from the people of Germany,” and declared that he hoped for “good contacts with the people of Jamahariya.” That is the name Colonel Qaddafi uses for his country.

At other times in the visit, Mr. Weifenbach posed for television cameras reading the Green Book and signing the guest registrar at the Qaddafi residence bombed by American jets in 1986, which is maintained as a monument to the attack.

“We’re talking about what is possible in sport and culture between our two countries,” he said. “It’s like Ping-Pong diplomacy, eh?

The highlight of the visit was the meeting with Colonel Qaddafi. After a thorough security check, aides fussily arranged the reporters and Mr. Weifenbach in a multicolored tent not far from the bombed-out house.

Finally Colonel Qaddafi sauntered in, carrying a copy of the Green Book, which he thoughtfully pursued. In response to questions from the reporters, Colonel Qaddafi said he would like to visit West Germany, but not while it was “occupied” by the American Army. “If Germany was a free country, I would visit it,” he said.

In the Persian Gulf, he said, President Reagan is a “cowboy playing with his guns.”

“He is an actor,” Colonel Qaddafi said, breaking into a chuckle. “and uses the world for this theater.”

At the end, Colonel Qaddafi let the reporters accompany him outside and posed for photographs with them against the background of his bombed-out house. Then, letting his cape flow behind him, he walked off alone, turning at the end of a long lane to clasp his hands over his head.

“The leader was pleased with the meeting,” an aide remarked.

(end of NY Times article)

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Needless to say, the mockery manufactured by ECD Iserlohn owner Heinz Weifenbach and Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi did not last very long as the plug was effectively and rather quickly pulled. Weifenbach and Qaddafi consumated their unusual alliance on November 28, 1987. Within roughly a fortnight, the West German Ice Hockey Federation formally barred the advertisement and the receiver appointed by the bankruptcy court officially dissolved the team with the top players being auctioned off to other clubs immediately.

The Iserlohn club did manage, however, to sport jerseys with a book and its title, “Das Gruen Buch”, for a crest on Bundesliga ice in December of 1987 and that continues forever in the pictoral archives for viewing enjoyment.

For those with serious knowledge of hockey history, some familiar names appearing on the roster of the 1.Bundeslilga 1987-88 squad of ECD ISERLOHN can incite the inclination to stroll down memory lane.

Interesting that the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers should consistently pop up over the course of proceedings then.

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Left wing JAROSLAV POUZAR, the highly experienced Czechoslovak international and Stanley Cup champion who can be found in the archives of the New York Times modeling The Green Book jersey, was ECD Iserlohn’s star player that season. Pouzar appeared at eight World Championships, two Winter Olympic Games and two Canada Cups for his homeland’s national team. Pouzar, who was eventually granted permission by communist authorities at the age of 30 in the fall of 1982 to play in the NHL, was a member of the Edmonton Oiler outfits who grabbed hockey’s Holy Grail in 1985 and 1987.

As fate would have it, both of these Oiler triumphs came at the expense of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Pouzar actually signed for Iserlohn for the 1986-87 season and joined Edmonton in the NHL following the West German campaign. The Oilers also added another reinforcement who had been playing in Europe that spring, former New York Rangers defenseman Reijo Ruotsalainen of Finland, from SC Bern in Switzerland.

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Defenseman GEORGE PESUT was the 24th overall selection (2nd round) of the St. Louis Blues in the 1973 National Hockey League draft. Pesut was also chosen in the second round (24th, as well) by the Cleveland Crusaders of the rival World Hockey Association that year. One month into his rookie professional season, Pesut was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers organization by the Blues.

Pesut never did appear in the NHL with the Flyers and suited up 46 times for the Richmond Robins of the American Hockey League before being traded by Philadelphia in December of 1974 to the California Seals for the rights to Ron Chipperfield (The Magnificent Seven). Pesut eventually skated on 92 occasions for the Seals of the NHL and got 17 games for the Calgary Cowboys in the old WHA before embarking on a long carrer in Europe.

Pesut would ply his trade for two seasons in Switzerland (HC Davos) and one in France (HC Chamonix) in addition to the eleven seasons spent in the first and second divisions in West Germany. The defenseman donned the sweater for EHC Hamburg, SC Preussen Berlin, ECD Iserlohn, SV Bayreuth, EHC 80 Nuremburg, a restructured ECD Sauerland Iserlohn and EC Kassel during his travels in Deutschland.

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Defenseman VITEZSLAV DURIS was, like Pouzar, a former Czechoslovakia national team player and member of his country’s ill-fated 1980 Olympic team at the Lake Placid Games. Duris defected following the 1979-80 campaign and continued his career by signing as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, with whom the Plzen native spent three seasons, playing 89 NHL games. It was with the Maple Leafs that Duris was reunited with goalie Jiri Crha, who, in all likelihood, would have been in Lake Placid for Czechoslovakia had the netminder not defected to start that season.

Crha and Duris were also teammates with the Cincinnati Tigers of the old Central Hockey League in the Toronto system.

Duris played eight years in the West Germany for ECD Iserlohn, EC Freiburg (again with Crha) and EV Landshut.

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Center DANIEL HELD was a Canadian who played his junior hockey in the United States (Seattle, Billings) and was the fifth round pick (#105 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1980 National Hockey League draft.

Held played his first season as a professional in West Germany for SC Berlin before signing on with the Philadelphia Flyers organziation. Held would spend two seasons in the American Hockey League for the Flyers’ Maine Mariners totaling 32 goals and 91 ponits in 140 games before returning to the Bundesliga. The Calgary native ultimately played 18 years of pro hockey in West Germany for no fewer than ten different teams.

Held became a naturalized West German citizen and was selected by his ‘new’ country for the 1987 IIHF World Championships in Vienna, Austria. That West German national team, despite an upset 5-3 victory over Canada (deploying NHLers not in the Stanley Cup playoffs) and another over Finland, was undone by the scandal involving former Poland junior international Miroslav Sikora.

But that would be another story for another day.

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One response to “The Ice Hockey Follies, With Qaddafi Starring : “The Leader Was Pleased”

  1. Interesting article. i can remember the gadhafi
    affair very well…………….crazy times
    george pesut