Harss puts away the pads
by Andrew Podnieks|22 JUN 2022
Jennifer Harss celebrates after a win at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
German goalie Jennifer Harss, a mainstay with the national women’s team for more than 15 years, has decided to retire. She first made the announcement through her Facebook page writing: “The time has finally come for me to say goodbye to playing the game of hockey. Since my whole life has been dedicated to the sport, it was not an easy decision for me to make. 

“I got to experience so many great things, travelled and played all over the world, made great friendships, taught me life lessons on and off the ice and had the opportunity to do it in a professional way! Thank you to my family, friends, teammates, coaches, trainers, physios, doctors, sponsors, fans and everybody in between. I’m excited for the next chapter, but I’ll never forget the time I spent on the ice! xoxo Jenny.”

Harss’s retirement will impact the team moving forward. She played three games of the five at the 2021 Women’s Worlds in Calgary, winning two. In all, she played in two Olympics – 2006, 2014 – and nine Women’s Worlds starting in 2005. In 30 combined games, she had a superb goals-against average of just 2.38 playing against the top teams in the world. One of her career highlights was at the 2017 Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, USA when the team advanced to the bronze medal game before losing to Finland. Another came at her first Olympics when she earned a shutout through 70 minutes and a shootout in a 1-0 win over Russia in the 5th-place game.

“I'm 34 years old now, and I've played internationally for quite a long time. The time has now come for me to think that's enough,” Harss later explained in an interview with the German Ice Hockey Federation website “My goal was the Olympics again [in 2022], but unfortunately that didn't work out. My planning went as far as Beijing, and now at the end of the season I thought again, looked into myself and finally realized that the fire isn't as big as it was in the past, and that's why it's a good time to stop.”

Indeed, Harss was not able to play for Germany during the final round of qualifying for the 2022 Olympics because of a Covid infection. Despite playing on home ice in Fussen, the Germans ended up third behind Denmark and Austria, and Harss could only dream of what might have been.

Harss came by her love of hockey naturally. Her dad and brother both played, and she fell in love with the sport more than any other activity of her childhood. And coming from an area of Germany with plenty of lakes, it was easy for Harss to play as much as she wanted.  She even played on a team with her older brother when they were young, an early dream come true for Jenny.

Indeed, Harss played much of her life with boys and men, and their harder shots and greater physicality were great tools to help her develop for the women’s game. As well, she was one of the few European women of her generation to play college hockey in the U.S., another great learning experience.

‘My college days at the University of Minnesota-Duluth had a big impact on me,” she explained, “because I played there with many international players from Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the USA.”

Harss began with UMD as backup to Kim Martin and then took over as the number-one goalie in 2009-10, leading the NCAA in minutes played and saves. Under coach Shannon Miller, the Bulldogs advanced to the Frozen Four championship game. In all, Harss played NCAA hockey for three years, 2009-12, but before and after she played many seasons in the German league. 

In retirement, though, Harss will continue to be on ice in some capacity or at the arena staying involved. Like so many women who are passionate about the game, she wants to give back to a sport that gave her so much.

“I will definitely stay connected to ice hockey,” she said, “and my goal is to advance ice hockey in Germany in general and women's ice hockey in particular.”

NOTES: In addition to Harss, Julia Zorn has announced her retirement from the national team, although she will continue her career in league play with ESC Planegg in the German Bundesliga. The 32-year-old Zorn began her international career in 2008 at the U18 Women’s World Championship as a goalie, but four years later made the unique transition to skater, the first and only player to do so at this level. Since then, she played in six Women’s World Championships as well as the 2014 Olympics.