Talks to Peter Collins September 1999
FOR new signing Norm Krumpschmid and his family, the move from Austria to Manchester has been made that little bit easier by the fact they've found a little bit of North America in, of all places, Walkden! "The lady whose house we've moved into has lived in the States for 29 years and so when she came over here she 'Americanised' the house as much as possible, so you could say we've found a little home from home," explained Norm.
Although born and raised in Canada it was in Austria that the 29-year-old winger made his name. After starting out with the Sudbury Wolves in the Onatrio Hockey League he went to Ferris State University where he spent four years, being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks along the way. "My stepfather is Austrian and when he married my mother - I'd be about three - he was still an Austrian citizen, which meant I could get an Austrian passport. "So when I finished college and was looking round for a club I told my agent this and once I'd got my Austrian passport I had two contract offers inside a week. "I was 22 and my chances of making it in the NHL weren't that good. I could have played in the minors back home, but at that time - 1992 - neither the AHL nor the IHL were paying that much, so I decided to move to Europe and I think I made the right decision. "
The Krumpschmid's summer in Indiana where 22-month-old Brandon has plenty of time to decide which nationality he wants to adopt. "He actually has three citizenships, American, Canadian and Austrian, so when he grows up he'll be able to play almost anywhere!" said Norm. After a stint with Feldkirch - the first winners of the EHL - where he played alongside Storm D-man Rob Robinson, he moved to Vienna where he became an assistant captain. But after six happy years the winds of change are blowing throughout European hockey. "The whole league over there has gone down hill, Vienna only brought back one import and even Klagenfurt dropped their budget big time. "There isn't the sponsorship that there is in Germany or even Britain. Other than Klagenfurt and Villach - two cities right next to each other that both have a good following - it's soccer everyone follows. "They don't even follow hockey that much in Vienna. There are two million people in the city yet they only average crowds of 3,000. That's a really sad state of affairs for a Pool 'A' nation that finished 10th in the last world champoinships. "As a result of the drop in standards and investment the league has had to draft in two Hungarian and two Slovakian teans to add to the four remaining Austrian ones. I could see it was going to be a really weak league so I thought it was time for a change."
In addition to playing his club hockey in Austria he's also become an important member of the national team "Playing at the Nagano Olympics and two world champinships has given me the opportunity to play against the best in the world. I've played against the likes of Canada, the USA, Russia and the Czechs, and when you're up against those guys you see just how good you have to be to play in the NHL, their speed and strength is unbelievable."
He didn't have the best of starts to his Storm career, slicing into a thumb tendon with a knife while opening up a pack of new sticks. It ruled him out of the pre-season games in Switzerland so he's been keen to get into the action as soon as he could and carve out for himself a role. Now he's formed a good understanding with former Vienna teammate Dave Livingston and Jeff Jablonskli, and it is helping him adjust to the British game. "In Austria there's not as much hitting and even the Canadians get used to the less physical style, here in Britain it's much more like North American hockey and you have to adjust, which can take time. "But it's fun playing with Dave and Jabber, I played alongside Dave last year and Jabber fits in well with us. It'll take a few games to get to really know one another's styles, but the more we play together the sooner we'll get it together."
As if making up for lost time he was voted the gold award winner on his home debut against Ayr two weeks ago, and then hit two goals in last Sunday's 6-1 win over Newcastle, in which his line was on fire, claiming four goals and four assists between them. And it was Norm who was instrumental in bringing Dave Livingston over. Once he'd inked his deal he told Kurt all about Dave and the job he could do for the team. Kurt followed it up, contacted Livingston and, as they say, the rest is history. Yet things could have turned out very different and instead of pulling on a Storm shirt for tonight's game it could have been the orange and teal of the Steelers we'd have seen Norm in. "Sheffield had told my agent they were interested in me but they had to wait on other guys. I didn't want to hang around so although they were offering more money I decided to come to Manchester. "The British league has steadily improved over the last few years and when I talked to Rob Robinson he told me how good it was here. Once I'd seen the arena and heard the fans for myself I knew I'd made the right choice and the games just can't come quick enough."