As little as hockey may be in Netherlands, you have to give massive credit to those who continue to grow the game.
The Tilburg Trappers were unbelievably dominant in the Eredivisie with 15 National Dutch Championships, 15 Dutch National Cups and now 3 German Oberliga Championships. Seems crazy right, a European hockey country like Germany getting rolled by the new kids on the block. Think on a big scale, Ajax, the biggest Dutch soccer club averages more fans in 1-2 games than the entire Eredivisie totals all season. So hockey is instantly behind the eight ball when no one knows about the sport.
Tilburg is a big urban centre, with a great rink, loyal supporters and continued success.
The now BeNeLiga is helping grow the game in both Belgium and the Netherlands, but still needs some fine tuning. The top hockey quality is obviously competitive as the best team in Tilburg went and wiped the floor with the Oberliga for three years now. I still have no clue how they aren’t a DEL2 team, but I’m assuming the German federation is involved.
Comparing these Dutch rinks to other countries in Europe, these are up there with a ton of the top leagues.
Although the country isn’t in the financial state it was in the 80s and 90s, they still continue to bring in solid import players too who have experience in the AHL, ECHL, WHL, CIS, Allsvenskan, Slovakia Tipsportliga, QMJHL, EIHL, Magnus Liga and NCAA D1.
I think one day the Netherlands could be a hockey country, but it will take some serious investment as countries like South Korea and the UK have taken over those middle of the pack groups.
The national team is back in the iihf D1, a place they’ve struggled to stay, but with some better youth development and a more consistent top league (BeNeLiga) I think they could gain some momentum.
Also, Tilburg has Brock Montgomery again so they’re going to be fun to watch for another season.