Getting to know: Björn Bombis
Born 30th September 1982 in the old East Germany (East Berlin), Genting Casino Coventry Blaze forward Björn Bombis struggled to find a team growing up. His Father, Bernd wasn’t a Communist Party member, meaning he couldn't play for Dynamo, the official army East German team, and so his only option was to lace-up for his Dad’s recreational team.
When Björn (Bjoern without the umlaut, but says he's very happy with Bjorn) was 7, just before German reunification, his family moved to Hannover in West Germany, where he was allowed to play for EC Hannover, before moving back to Berlin at the age of 12 (after reunification) to play for Dynamo's successor team, Eisbaeren Berlin.
“Training once a week in Hannover wasn’t enough,” said Bombis, who was later described by Hamburg Freezers' General Manager Boris Capla (pictured below) as “a player always looking to get better, with an unstoppable will to do so."
In 1999, Björn joined EV Weiden debuting in Oberliga Süd (Germany’s third-tier), whilst playing in parallel for the same club in the Czech Junior Extraliga. To conclude the season, with 50 points, Bombis was the club’s top-scorer catching the attention of a number of professional Czech teams.
In the summer of 2000, Bombis was invited to the HC Plzen training camp, where on the back of his impressive performances in the Zepter Cup he was offered a three-year contract. The German though decided to turn the deal down and instead sign for HC Karlovy Vary in the under-20 Junior Czech Extraliga.
The following season, the creative forward was offered a contract to join the Extraliga club, however he preferred a move back to his home-land with Wölfe Freiburg, citing the opportunity of more ice time. Over two seasons, the youngster hit more than 50 points, helping the team win a German second division Championship and with it promotion to the top-level DEL.
Bombis though did not stay with the promoted Freiburg club, instead he secured a deal with rivals Hannover Scorpions who ended the season escaping relegation, whilst his former club slipped back down.
By the summer of 2004, he had firmly established himself at Germany’s Elite Level, being described as “one of the most talented players in the DEL,” by Hamburg GM Boris Capla (who is now sports manager for Czech club Piráti Chomutov). He was to play over 170 times for Nürnberg Ice Tigers, Hamburg Freezers and finally Krefeld Pinguine where injury would unfortunately ruin his final season in the DEL.
Since then, following a four-year tour around DEL2, Bombis finally decided to settle with the club he first spent a season with in 2006/07, the Fischtown Pinguins of Bremerhaven.
“I moved around quite a bit, but most of the time I could have stayed with the same club if I had wanted to but I was always looking for ways to better myself and move upwards,” reflected Björn.
The Berlin native leaves the Bremerhaven club a popular figure having clocked up over 250 games and more than 200 points over a five-year period (2006/07 & 2012-16), often leading the club’s scoring charts. He also helped the organisation to a DEL2 Championship in 2013/14, which despite being a career highlight comes with a tinge of disappointment for the German.
“My knee blew out in training so I missed the finals series,” explained Björn.
Scoring 34 points in 39 games before that, Bombis says that despite the injury, he felt fully part of the Championship success and confirms that he managed to take something from the experience.
“I learned to change my relationship and approach to injuries - to accept them and get on with life rather than letting them get me down. It was an incredible feeling to lift that trophy in the air as part of a group that had worked so hard for it. All the boys were there in their jerseys and skates, and there was me in my shirt and shoes!”
The following season (2014/15), Bombis was to star in the Continental Cup as Fischtown finished runners up to Belarusian champions Neman Grodn 6-2 in the final. The club also made it to the DEL2 finals again, losing their trophy to Bietigheim-Bissingen by four games to two, despite Bombis’ positive contribution of 12 points in 16 playoff games.
Alfred Prey, a team manager in Bremerhaven, told Radio Bremen in 2015, "Björn’s a key player here and as a playmaker he has undeniable ability. He's a player who handles the puck beautifully and has great ability to bring others into play. He's got super hands and a good eye."
Now 33 years-old, Bombis heads to the UK, becoming the first ever German player to play for the Coventry Blaze.
“For me playing hockey is like a drug,” said the right shot forward. “I like to learn and get better every day, even being in my thirties.”
For many age is just a number, and that couldn’t be more true than for Björn’s role-model, his Father, Bernd who is still actively playing the game at the age of 64!
Owner and Player/Coach of the EC Celler Oilers in Germany’s fourth division, he scored 14 points in 18 games last season.
"It's funny how the Blaze fans have picked up on that so fast," said Björn. "He tries to schedule his own games after my games, so he can watch me play whenever possible. He is running the team and still playing for his own team too. The team finished middle of the pack last season. They practice two or three times per-week and have their training camp before every season plus exhibition and season games. In order to keep up with the younger guys, he is really serious when it comes to preparing himself. He loves it, takes care of his body and even takes his naps before games! I can’t imagine him not playing."
When Björn moves to Coventry, he will be joined by his wife, Jolanda Bombis-Robben, a Dutch international handball left-winger (who's played 19 times for her country and scored 11 goals). She's also Arjen Robben's (currently of Bayern Munich FC) 2nd cousin, sharing his number 11 when representing her country.
For 9 months a year, the pair's lives revolve around the ice rink and handball arena but even in the off-season the two like to remain active.
“We love simple holidays, hiking, fishing etc. We live life a bit like Robinson Crusoe together,” laughed Björn. “Once Jolanda and I went on holiday for a month and 25 days out of 28 we were in the gym. We'd spend an hour working out and then wander off through the towns and sightsee. It's what we do. We’re also keen cooks, and as I do a bit of personal-training I am interested in nutrition.”
The ice though continues to be the main passion for Bombis, to the point where he even proposed to Jolanda in his sacred place, the ice rink.
"I laid a trail of candles from the entrance to the ice. She had to follow them with skates on, then when she got to the rink I was waiting. I put on our favourite song and I proposed to her. Thankfully she said yes!”
Before the Bombis’ arrives in the Midlands next month, Björn will be running his hockey school ‘Buma Sports’ where he says he likes to “teach and inspire children.”
We look forward to welcoming both Björn and Jolanda to Coventry. You can see him make his Blaze debut against the Nottingham Panthers at the Skydome Arena on Wednesday August 24th at 7.30pm. Tickets will be on sale around two weeks before the game.
See some highlights of Bombis in action in the following video:
Article: Craig Summerton, with thanks to Paul Wheeler for support with translation.
Quotes taken from the following: