Last updated: February 19. 2013 4:36PM - 194 Views

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For the first seven years of his life, Tom Kuhnhackl had a relatively normal childhood while growing up in Landshut, Germany.


He did all the usual things that kids did – went to school, played sports and did homework.


The only decision that Kuhnhackl had to deal with in his early years was which sport to play – hockey, golf or tennis, he loved them all.


But one day when the 7-year-old Kuhnhackl was rummaging through his house like little kids do, he found a DVD that changed everything.


It had my dad's name on it. I went to my dad and asked him to put it in the laptop and it was a DVD of him playing hockey, Kuhnhackl said. I asked him what it was and he said ‘Well, I played hockey.'


That's how I found out.


What Kuhnhackl found out was that his father, Erich, was considered a legend of German ice hockey.


The elder Kuhnhackl played professional hockey in Europe from 1968-1989. He led his team to the German championship four times and the bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics, holds the German record for goals and points, and recorded 53 hat tricks – three more than Wayne Gretzky's NHL total.


In fact, comparisons have been made between Kuhnhackl's dominance in Europe and the Great One's achievements in North America.


There are certainly similarities.


During his NHL career, Gretzky scored 894 goals and 2,857 points in 1,487 games.


In half as many games while playing in Germany, Kuhnhackl registered 723 goals and 1,428 points.


Gretzky led the NHL in scoring 10 times, Kuhnhackl led the German league seven times.


Gretzky scored the most goals in an NHL season with 92 in 80 games, and Kuhnhackl did the same thing in Germany when he registered a staggering 83 goals in 48 games during the 1979-1980 season.


And then there are the accolades. Kuhnhackl was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997 and in 2000 was named the German ice hockey player of the century.


He accomplished almost everything you can imagine, Tom Kuhnhackl said. It's just amazing how many goals he scored and the type of player he was. It's unbelievable to have him as a dad.


Needless to say, when Tom Kuhnhackl learned of his father's accomplishments, he made the easy choice to become a hockey player.


But it was a choice that Erich Kuhnhackl was adamant that his son made on his own. That's why he never told him that he was a hockey legend.


I asked him why he didn't tell me and he said when you're young and your dad pushes something on you, maybe you don't like it, Tom Kuhnhackl said. He said the most important thing is that it's your choice and you're having fun. I was having fun with hockey and when I found out what kind of player my dad was, my mind was made up to stick with hockey.


Since then, the younger Kuhnhackl has been carving out a notable career for himself. The 20-year-old was a fourth round pick by Pittsburgh in 2010 after spending two seasons playing pro hockey in Germany. In his first season in North America in the Ontario Hockey League (2010-11), Kuhnhackl resembled his father by posting 39 goals and 68 points in 63 games.


Any comparison is welcomed by Kuhnhackl.


I try to be like my dad. It's really hard to get there – a tough road, but I'm hoping to be like him, he said.


But he's learning.


After the discovery of the DVD, Tom Kuhnhackl's relationship with his father evolved into another facet, one of student and teacher. When he decided to devote his time to becoming a hockey player, Tom Kuhnhackl had the best teacher right in his house.


After I found out he played hockey, I turned to him with a lot with questions, he said. My dad would videotape me in practices and games, and then we would sit down and watch. He'd tell me what I did right, wrong and what he would do in certain situations. It was amazing just listening to him.


Now 62, Erich Kuhnhackl coached in Germany for several years and is currently vice president of the German Ice Hockey Federation.


But his most important role, in his son's eyes, is that of father and teacher.


Since Tom Kuhnhackl discovered that DVD years ago, he has only one regret.


I wish I could've seen him play, just one game to see my dad on the ice, he said. I'm really proud to have him as my father.


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