Fall Break - Hockey Tour

During our trip throughout the Southern and Western part of Switzerland, I kept sending pictures to our family chat (my parents and my brother) and he commented "I'm confused. Are you sightseeing in general, following the Grand Tour or watching hockey?"

All of the above, of course. And I blogged about the sightseeing / Grand Tour part over here. Now in order to be true to my blog's name, on to hockey.

On the eve of our departure, EV Zug, our home team, played their Champions Hockey League home game against HC Škoda Plzeň, last season's winner of the Czech Republic's hockey league. 

Just as I dropped Colin off for his afternoon practice, we noticed a car just in front of us.

Of course my youngster immediately got excited. These are our opponents, he said!

Turned out, it was the coaches. The players arrived by bus.

As a youth player, Colin has access to the standing room section for all the games, and I was lucky enough to get seats for both, hubby and myself. So yes, we saw the Czech team play, and at some point we saw our own Instagram post on the huge arena screen.

Our team won 5:2, and I was so impressed by the opponent's fans who must have been super tired after the long trip (it's a six hours' drive), but they've kept their good mood, cheering and jumping up and down until the very end. 

In the elevator to the parking garage we had company. The guy is Patrick Fischer, he used to play in Zug and is the Swiss National Team's Head Coach today. 

The next day our official trip began, and our first (hockey) stop was just on the other side of the Gotthard pass. A small mountain village called Ambri-Piotta. We've never been there before. We knew that their arena, the Valascia, is old and partly open, and therefore very cold. Sometimes icy winds blow in snow, and they have to clean the ice - again.

What we didn't know as TV viewers was the degree of out of shape-ness of the entire facilities. As if it wasn't cold enough in the arena, 6,500 hockey fans (on a full night) need to get their food outside. The hut does look charming, and I'm trying hard not to compare it the half dozen concession stands that even offer Prosecco (probably the only one in Switzerland, to be fair) at our own, heated arena in Zug.

What really shocked me, though, is their ice rink schedule. The equivalent of Colin's level, together with the older group, trains once a week, on Wednesdays from 3:15 - 4:30 pm. 

While it looks like the arena might be available other times, I wonder if there's just not enough coaches? It made me really sad. There may be some hard working, talented kids who just don't get the advancement they need and deserve.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. A new arena is in the making on the closeby former airforce base. There has been much debate, and I understand construction has been interrupted after the initial groundbreaking in summer 2017, the work has been postponed, and postponed, you name it. Hopefully for the season 2021/22 the new arena will be ready. This will be important for two reasons: the current location A) is increasingly avalanche-prone, and B) does not meet the new-ish standards of the national hockey league.

I'm so happy the necessary funds could be raised. Ambri deserves it. Year after year they end up fighting in the play-outs. Also, year after year, they confirm they belong among the top 12 teams in Switzerland!


During the regular season, each of the 12 teams play 50 games. The top eight teams after the regular season qualify for the play-offs to determine the Swiss champion in best-of-seven series. The bottom four teams in the standings play a relegation tournament, called play-outs, in which each team retains their regular season points and play an additional six matches. Following those matches, the two bottom ranked teams will play each other in a best-of-seven series, with the loser then playing the winner of the (lower) Swiss League playoffs in a best-of-seven series for a spot in the successive NL season.

Enough of the rules. On to the next stadium visit in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, the Pista la Resega aka Cornèr Arena in Lugano. 

In recent years the Lugano team has been somewhat of a rival for us. We kicked them off after the quarter finals. We also like to make fun of them for the following reason: Their president is a rich real estate lady called Vicky Mantegazza. 

Supposedly she celebrated the fact that her team made it to the finals in the 2017/18 season by enjoying an expensive bottle (of wine). 

Now in Swiss German a bottle (Flasche) is slang for what I believe you call a lemon in English, a not that great of a player.

Lugano, due to Vicky's generous payroll budget, keeps hiring slightly older players who used to be super successful, and once they're on the team, they sort of fall flat, hence the expensive Flasche ;-)))

But kidding aside, now that they got rid of a certain trouble maker who plays for a German team now, they're an OK team.

After a trip to Zermatt - absolutely no hockey going on in that scenic ski resort - we arrived in Lausanne in the French speaking part of Switzerland on Sunday afternoon. Lausanne, along with Zurich will be hosting city of the 2020 World Championship. 

For that reason they had to upgrade their venue, and we were lucky enough to purchase tickets for their newly inaugurated Vaudoise Arena at the centre sportive de Malley. 

Coming from Ambri, see above, this was like the land of milk and honey!

This lovely fellow is Cooly, the mascot for the IIHF 2020, and they were kind enough to pose with me.

Lausanne HC is relatively new to the Swiss National League. They achieved what I described in the above scenario, and were promoted in 2013.

That night they played against Lugano - yes, the expensive bottles' team, hahaha. And Lausanne won. Enough said, right? 

As it was a family-friendly afternoon game they organised a teddy bear toss, and may I say, it was a fruitful one. Good thing they hired their youth players who were busy for a good 15 minutes collecting stuffed animals. 

The next day we moved on to Geneva. It was a gorgeous and warm fall day, and we were headed to the lake, but - according to Colin - it's hockey first. 

So we paid Patinoire les Vernets, home of Genève-Servette HC, a visit. 

The Geneva team has been experiencing quite some changes over the past few years. For a long time their co-owner, general manager and head coach was one person, Chris McSorley, and I loved him. Canadian guy, lived and breathed hockey, full of enthusiasm and entrepreneurship. 

After our team kicked them off the quarter finals in the 2016/17 season (sounds like a pattern, see Lugano), he announced his retirement as head coach of Genève-Servette to focus on his duties as general manager.

This is a model of Sherkan, their living bald eagle who always launches their home games. You can see him for a second at about 0.58

Sadly, the pub on the premises of Les Vernets that used to be called McSorley's, removed the name. Not sure what the restaurant is now called. Yeah well. While we were lingering a guy that looked familiar, walked past us, talking on the phone in Swiss German. Hubby was like he looks familiar, I think it's a player, but what's his name again? 

And why wasn't he training? All of his team members were on the ice.

A few hours later we got notified via hockey app that in fact Jurai Simek was going to be loaned to Rapperswil Jona Lakers in Northeastern Switzerland. So he left Geneva the same day, trained in Rapperswil the next day and scored against our team on Friday. Not only that, it looks as if he would love to stay there!

Next stop on our trip: Fribourg. It was a terribly rainy and dreary day, but we didn't mind too much because hubby had planned to take care of a long term bucket list item, and in the evening we had tickets for the game against Davos. 

Reading my post you must think what is it with the Swiss and their hockey stadiums, are they all being remodelled or built? Looks that way. Also the BCF Arena in Fribourg is undergoing changes. To me honest I thought they were pretty much finished, but no.

While the top looks top...

The seating is still from the last century.

Poor camera people and photographers had a hard time doing their job through the fogged up window. Until this helpful gentleman came to their (and our!) rescue.

At the beginning of each home game the players come onto the ice by being expelled from their dragon's hissing mouth.

I tried to find out why a dragon is the team's mascot. It seems to have to do with the original location where the teenagers, who later ended up founding the hockey club, used to play: on the frozen ponds of a fish farm. 

Interestingly - and unknowingly - we were there while exploring this neighborhood.

What else can I tell you about Fribourg Gottéron? To my knowledge it was the first Swiss hockey team to hire Russian players in the early 1990s. 

Note that it was the Soviet Union back then. The two guys were called Vyacheslav "Slava" Bykov (his son, Andreï Bykov, who is 31 yo, still plays for Fribourg today) and Andreï Khomutov, and as Mario Rottaris likes to say "it was interesting to say the least."

Mario Rottaris, who was a young player on the team back then, was at awe by his new teammates' skills. After dedicating his entire hockey career to Fribourg, Mario manages a golf and country club today and serves as a TV hockey expert during the playoffs. That's when we ran into him last season.

Back to the game this week. We were appalled that the opponent's fans were physically sequestered from the rest of the viewers. WTF? I strongly hope these walls will be knocked down as the renovations progress. There are other ways to manage possible outbursts of disgruntled fans, and frankly it barely happens in ice hockey anyway. Now soccer is a whole 'nother story.

The opponent that night was HC Davos. I may have mentioned the club once or five times.  Not a fan of their long-standing former coach, but that's history now. 

It's where the annual Spengler Cup is being held, and last December, Colin got the fantastic opportunity to be part of a kids practice session with the international participating teams.

Andres Ambühl, their most legendary and charismatic player and captain, played his 1,000th Swiss national league game that night. He's also a long-term teammate on the Swiss national team, so you may want to add a few more. To date it has been 121 to be exact. 

Next stop: EHC Biel / Bienne. They used to have the most charismatic coach, Kevin Schläpfer. His epic motto was "die miesse no es Briket iewärfe", Swiss German for they need to up their game. Literally it means they need to throw in another briquet (into the fire). He was a passionate guy who put special emphasis on team spirit, and I never understood why his team wasn't more successful. I like that they are down to earth, not spoiled by success, there are no divas standing out - well, maybe one ;-)

Now that Kevin is gone, and the new guy (the one replacing the rebound guy,) is responsible, they had a fantastic start into the new season, and I won't be surprised if they do really well in 2019/2020.

The new guy is called Antti Törmänen, he's from Finland, and his son played against my son last year. So we're fellow hockey parents and basically friends.

EHCB plays at a fabulous new Tissot Arena, sponsored by the Swiss watch industry. It comes with a shoppping center, movie theaters, restaurants, fitness, bowling and gaming areas, you name it. Given they're a bit outside the city they even provide relatively enough parking opportunities. 

The night we were there, their U17 team was playing. These players are only four or five years older than Colin and his friends, but geez, they are big and strong! Skilled, too. Their Moms must be proud.

Given their age, they are either finishing high school or just started college or an apprenticeship. How are they balancing school, job and practice?

This is the opponent's - SC Langnau Tigers - bus that took them back home, an hour's plus drive on a school night. 

We took the exact trip the next morning but we weren't exhausted from a game, and it wasn't late at night. On our way we went past Postfinance Arena, home to SCB, our capital's team, the bears. If I was talking about how humble and unpretentious the Biel team is, here in Bern's the complete opposite going on: 

It's the superstars' team. First-rate, high priced players who come with expectations... They have been Swiss champions five times in the last ten years. Lately they prevented our team from winning the playoffs. We don't like them too much so we didn't care to stop at their arena, hahaha  ;-)

We proceeded to our Bernese country team, SC Langnau Tigers. If Biel is a humble team, Langnau is even more modest. Within the last ten years they even dropped out of the National league but managed to get promoted back in 2015/16. Respect!

One of their (now) former players is the husband of a former SBUX coworker of mine, and a few years back we met at their home, just as another teammate dropped by. Little Colin was so happy.

Claudio Moggi, little Colin Gerber, Adrian Gerber

Both - plus Claudio's twin brother Sandro - left the team since, and they are being missed.

They play at the Ilfishalle, (It was closed due to practice, hence no pictures) if I had to guess I'd say it's the smallest national league arena, but the coziest as there is a lot of visible wood giving it a chalet feeling. 

Also their goal music is very rustic and atmospheric.
See, Langnau is in the Emmental valley. Yes, the Emmental, where the famous cheese is from!

Back home we had nothing else to do than to go to hockey practice and a home game at our very own heated Bossard Arena that is - to my knowledge - the only one that serves Prosecco. 

Sadly, EVZ played badly and lost to SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers. The End.

I enjoyed writing this post - even though I am aware that not many people may actually be interested in reading it. Yeah, well. Let me know!


  1. Such an amazing trip to take, one of the many I'm sure Colin will remember his whole life. I have to admit, I tend to think of hockey as exceedingly competitive, I'm shocked that a member of one team can be on loan to another.


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