With a second German hockey league championship under his belt, helping his club get promoted to the next highest league, Vernon’s Lanny Gare can now turn his off-season attention to motivation and renovation.
Gare had an assist on the empty-net championship-clinching goal as his Selber Wolves defeated the Hannover Scorpions 4-2 in the final of the German Oberliga, earning the Wolves’ promotion to the DEL2, Germany’s second-highest professional level of hockey.
The Wolves play in the town of Selb, population 17,000, in the district of Wunsiedel, in Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany. It is situated in the Fichtelgebirge mountain range on the border with the Czech Republic. Selb is well known for its porcelain manufacturing.
“I have the summers off so I focus on my off-season training,” said Gare, 42, who lives with his wife, Johanna – who he met within his first 30 days after arriving in Germany in 2006 – and daughter Kiedis, eight, and son Mannix, five.
“People have been constantly second-guessing me for the last five years because of my age. So it’s not hard to stay motivated. We also bought a house here last year. So I’m constantly busy with renos, especially in the summer.”
Not quite the Jaromir Jagr of Germany – the former NHL star is still playing at 49 in his native Czech Republic – Gare is among the oldest players in the country. There is a 45 year old German-Canadian still playing.
With experience comes wisdom. Gare has learned to appreciate the game more now as a pro than when he was younger, and it’s that appreciation and camaraderie with his teammates that will have him suiting up for one final year in 2021-22.
“It’s fun going to the dressing room every day to be with the boys, and my children want to come to the arena and watch me play,” he said. “Luckily, every game was available to stream this year, but it was difficult without fans. It’s not the same. You miss the atmosphere they bring. I think anyone watching the NHL playoffs games in the U.S. right now sees the positive influence of having fans in the seats.
“I’m just going to try and enjoy every minute of next season. Hopefully some family or friends come visit during the season.”
A member of the 1999 Royal Bank Cup champion Vernon Vipers, Gare played four years at the University of New Hampshire, then three years of minor pro before making the move to Europe in 2006, where he’s been ever since.
All but one of those years have been spent in Germany. He has played 10 seasons in the Oberliga and four seasons in Germany’s 2.GBUN-DEL2 league. Heading into 2020-21, he had amassed 109 goals and 205 assists for 314 points, including back-to-back 28-goal seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
He won a championship in 2014 with the Frankfurt Lions in 2014.
The hockey, he says, has changed since his arrival.
“It’s definitely become more physical with the body contact aspect. Everyone hits, finishes checks and strong defensive play has been prioritized over the years,” said Gare. “The old days of soft European hockey are long gone.”
Gare became a German citizen in 2011 through a combination of marriage and having lived in the country for a period of time. He had to learn to speak, read and write at an approved level before citizenship was granted. Unfortunately, it came at a cost.
“I was forced to give up my Canadian citizenship to get it, something to this day I’m not very happy about,” said Gare, born Sept. 5, 1978 in Vernon. “Ironically, many Canadian players manage to get dual Canadian/German citizenship through ancestry. If I remember correctly, my giving up my Canadian citizenship was that it had something to do with Canada not being in the EU (European Union). Dual citizenship was only permitted with other EU countries.”
Gare and the Wolves won their title on Mother’s Day, and one of the first people he contacted was his mom, Debbie.
“I was able to FaceTime my mother from the ice and wish her a happy Mother’s Day,” said Gare.
His father, Ernie, is a former coach of the Vernon Lakers who guided the team to back-to-back B.C. Hockey League championships in 1988 and 1989, and led the team to its first of four consecutive Centennial Cup (precursor to Royal Bank Cup) appearances in Summerside, PEI in 1989.