Udo Kiessling? Udo Who-doe?
The don't ask that question in Germany where Udo Kiessling is considered to be the best defensemen in the history of German hockey. In fact in a 1992 poll he was voted as the top German defender of all time with more than 1000 votes than NHLer Uwe Krupp.
Kiessling played 23 seasons in Germany's highest league with a handful of various teams. He also played on the German national team for 19 years from 1973-1992. He played in five Olympics, including the bronze medal winning team in 1976 at Innisbruck, Austria. He appeared at 15 World Championships. He played in the 1984 Canada Cup. Oh yeah, and he played one game for the Minnesota North Stars in 1982.
Kiessling, often described as Germany's hockey "heart," was the long time captain of the German national team. He played in 320 international matches, once a IIHF record, scoring 44 goals. Kiessling played in 1020 German league games, scoring 346 goals and 535 assists for 881 points as a defenseman. His best years came when he played with Kolner EC where he helped the team win six national titles. He was also named the top player in Germany on three occasions.
Though small by NHL standards, he was a physical defender. In fact some Canadian import players in the German leagues accused Kiessling of being a very dirty player who was protected by the referees because of his stature. He came from good hockey bloodlines, as his father Gerhard was the East German national team coach until they defected to West Germany. Gerhard would coach the West German national team from 1966-1973, including two Olympics.
German Star Becomes North Star
The North Stars became interested in Kiessling's services and signed the 5'10" 180lb blueliner to a contract late in 1982, though they had been pursuing him as early as 1979. The contract was just for the remainder of the season. The Stars only used him in one game in which he registered one shot and took a two minute minor penalty. Kiessling then left the team to once again represent Germany in the world championships. He would not return to Minnesota.
Back To Germany
By 1987 Kiessling proved to be one of the best defenseman outside of the NHL. At the 1987 World Championships he was along with Soviet defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov were named to the tournament's first all star team. Kiessling also led the Germans to a strong showing in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.
Kiessling played through the end of the 1995-96 season when he was just shy of 41 years old.