Like many other topics in hockey this is one I can talk about with competence. Until the 2013 World Championship Final loss to Sweden the Swiss were the unbeaten sensation. They beat Canada, Czechs twice, Sweden once and the USA on the way to their deserved silver medal. It is a notion we need to get used to. I actually think the Swiss will edge the Czech for the foreseeable future. Many Czech youth coaches are now working in Switzerland. The money in the Swiss National Liga is very good. Who cares it’s not the Stanley Cup, I hear you say? Well I have news for you Doubters.
Hockey in Switzerland is just very very popular. Always was. Games in Bern will regularly sell out with 18000. People from all corners of tiny Switzerland will travel to game of Bern and or Zurich. Cities such as Davos, Zug, Bern and Zurich are extremely affluent and will now bank roll hockey as the main town attraction. Geneva is finally building a proper hockey arena to replace the 1950’s arena that is completely wrong for the purpose. The newly promoted Lausanne where hockey is tradition will be no exception. The world HQ of Neste, RJR and the IOC nearby they will have a sell out every game. The rivalries between Lausanne and Geneva, Lausanne and Fribourg will be ones to savour. The Swiss system Is edging closer and closer to a closed professional league.
The Swiss do nothing very quickly but they are thorough.
The Swiss youth hockey programme is in fact excellent. The Zurich Lions have one of the best integrated systems in the world. From the runts to a farm team in Zurich that plays one league down from the Elite team it is very, very good system. Many young Russians, Latvians come to Switzerland to play youth hockey and get an international education. They will grow up being Swiss. It just goes to say that Slava Bykov’s son Andrey who is a very good player didn’t make the WC line up (He may be injured, I don’t know) The Zurich Lions have beaten Chicago Blackhawks in a preseason game in Zurich the year the Hawks won the Cup. Exhibition, I hear you say, maybe? I was there and Zurich played well, Chicago was beaten fair and square. The Swiss league had a cap on foreign players (4 if my memory serves me) and so all clutch situations the coaches would rely on import players and the swiss never really grew up to learn responsibility. Then came the WCs and they had to do it for themselves and they always struggled. Well this has clearly
The Swiss NHL pioneers were David Aebischer and Martin Gerber who arrived in the NHL 15 years ago. Then there were the unsuccessful draft picks of such as Michael Riesen / Oilers (12G) and Reto von Arx in Chicago (19G). But all of sudden there is good number of Swiss players playing major juniors, getting recognition, being drafted and sticking around in the Show. That is a good thing. The work the Swiss do is starting to pay dividends. You wouldn’t know this but 22 swiss born players have played in the NHL. The Swiss even have a quality captain of a NHL franchise in Mark Streit who has already 491 NHL games under his belt!
So lets look who is in the show and who are the next Swiss prospects waiting to show what they can do. We have the aforementioned Mark Streit, Luca Sbisa /Ducks, Roman Josi /Preds, Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz for the Habs, Damian Brunner/Wings, Sven Baertschi /Flames and of course Jonas Hiller / Ducks. The next players to come to the NHL: Look out for Reto Berra the Swiss goalie, Sven Andrighetto and Tanner Richard. Undrafted Mirco Muller born in 1995 is 6’3 D man who has a complete game and is playing for the Kloten Flyers.
As they say in Zurich Hopp Schwiiz!