Karl Friesen was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but has spent most of his career playing in Germany, where he is one of that countries greatest goalies.
A starting goalie for the West German national team, Friesen played in 6 World Championships in the years of 1981-1989. He also participated in 3 Olympics (1984, 1988 and 1992) and the 1984 Canada Cup. Best known for his days with Rosehheim in the German Leagues, Friesen was named the German Player of the Year on 4 occassions - 1982, 1988, 1989 and 1990.
He was born in Winnipeg,so how come that he ended up playing for Germany for so many years? Well, his parents had emigrated to Canada from Germany only a month before his birth. Karl played some hockey around the Winnipeg area as a youngster and was invited to Winnipeg Jets training camp in their inaugural NHL season 1979-80. He didn't make the team and was ready to quit hockey to pursue a career in the accounting field.
Karl,a deeply religious man had no plans to continue with the sport,but two things changed his life. He got married and then moved with his wife Judy to West Germany in time for the start of that country's club league season. Karl had dual citizenship and was considered a resident by the West German Ice Hockey Federation. He had been approached by West German teams earlier but declined the offers.
" In previous years, I had just passed off the offers from Germany because I didn't want to go out there by myself. In 1980, I got married and we decided we would give it a try there. Even though I never wanted to make hockey a career. I thought that for one or two years it would be an experience that I probably wouldn't be able to get at another time. We enjoyed it so much that before we knew it five years were up." Karl said.
Friesen, who played junior hockey in Manitoba, was never drafted by the NHL. But after 5 seasons of international competition, the New Jersey Devils, desperately seeking goaltending help, signed the free agent in 1985. Friesen spent the entire 1985-86 season with the Devils farm team in Maine of the AHL. Friesen shared duties with Sam St. Laurent and also shared the Hap Holmes Memorial Award for fewest goals against in the AHL.
The following season Friesen returned to Germany for good - but only after getting his cup of NHL tea. Friesen appeared in 4 games (130 minutes) going 0-2-1. He let in 16 goals on 96 shots (.800 save percentage).
Although he never played more than four NHL games he had a rich career, both money and playing wise.
"For someone who thought he would just get married, settle down in his job, go to school, it's just been an unbelievable life. Most people try it in the pros, get sent to the minors and play there and the try to go to Europe. I did that first." Karl said.
During his years in Germany, Karl earned more money per season than half of the No.1 goalies in the NHL. As one of Germany's top players he could smile all the way to the bank. He retired in 1996, 38-years old.
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