Review of the Swiss Hockey Playoffs 2018
by Julien de Flouveray III
Jack had known Nip, as he came to call him, the last 24 years (his real name was Rudy). It was a long story.
Jack was originally from Quebec (near Victoriaville, famous for its hockey sticks), and was 7 years into a work stint in Switzerland. Nip was Swiss German, originally from Altstetten near Zurich.
They met when Jack joined the same Wettingen Ice Dogs Division 3 men’s ice hockey team as Nip when Jack arrived in Kreis 5 in Zurich several years before from Geneva. And they did nothing but talk hockey. Well maybe not exactly nothing.
They always met for a few wet ones at their favorite – back then – smoke-filled pub at the Enge at the edge of Lake Zurich.
Nip liked his home-made Kirschnapps poured straight out of his flask into whatever else he was drinking - usually coffee. “A little Swiss nip” he used to say. And that’s how he got his name.
Nip gritted his teeth there mostly as he was a HUGE Lugano fan.
Which brings us to the topic – this year’s incredibly gripping Swiss Bundesliga playoff series won in the end by the ZSC Lions (again).
“You just knew dey were ready coming into the playoffs” Nip said with that even pacing of his impeccable, hockey-dressing room English.
“Zuri totally loaded up on talent and bodies going into da playoffs” he drawled. “It was like Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy with Foreman. It was like dey were really saying ‘we just playing with you during the regular season. Now that we made it into the playoffs, now we play for keeps’.”
Nip rattled on about the high-roller ownership of the Lions’ hockey club that had enabled them, in Nip’s opinion, to buy their way into the championship
. It certainly had been a big enabler.
“Vee haf Big Money here Jack” he said to me, and he leaned in a little closer and lowered his voice. It felt like a 700-year old national Swiss secret was coming. “We have tons of money here Jack. Tons. It’s just dat we... how should I say...? We are a lot less loud about it than what you do over der (in North America)”.
He nodded appreciatively.
Nip rattled on about UPC (previously Cablecom), a global media conglomerate which currently held the broadcasting rights of the Swiss league hockey games. Nip didn’t like that the customer seemed to be on the losing end of the rights tussle they were having w another famous Swiss company over how many games to broadcast. But that's another story
The 2018 Swiss playoffs were the real deal this year – full on intensive hockey certainly from the second round on.
ZSC made it into the playoffs, and then “... jacked their roster big-time...” as Nip said. They went on to win the entire Swiss playoffs championships beating Lugano in 7 games in the final series.
ZSC won the deciding 7th game 1-0. It had been an extremely tight series. Most of ZSC’s play-off games had been decided in the last period. In fact 11 of ZSC’s 12 playoff game wins were one goal games!
“They were doing something right with the Hockey Gods” said Jack. He relayed how in Canada, everyone knew that in reality, the Hockey Gods ruled everything. Nip was totally up on the Hockey Gods. But that's another story
Most important of all – Nip and Jack believed this more than anything: The Hockey Gods ruled over Swiss playoff games just as they did the Stanley Cup playoff hockey games.
And that indeed was the story in the Swiss finals this year also. ZSC Lions played tougher. They had employed an “intimidator” and “instigator” way of playing hockey. In-your-face, crusty, body-bruising hockey. They cut through Zug in the first round in 5 games. And then bested a tough Berne squad in the semi-finals in 6 games.
Then they squeezed out a tough, slug-it-out final with Lugano. It seems that they just played harder – but in reality they were able to renew their roster with good players, while other teams, Lugano included, literally ran out of healthy players.
The last game was typical. Lugano actually had scored the first goal to make it 1-0. But the ref whistled too early, so even though the puck was loose and Lapierre jumped on it and slammed it into the net, the play was called dead. Lugano’s bench went apoplectic. Enter the Hockey Gods part1.
So Lugano’s opening goal was refused. And then a few moments later a Zurich shot went off a leg and went in against Lugano and ... The tide turned, and that was it. Game 7 decided by the Hockey Gods.
Talk returned to Swiss hockey culture given the style of play ZSC employed. Jack said “Yes – agree, it’s getting tougher. But don’t you think that’s why the Swiss have come such a long way?
It seems so. In fact this year Switzerland officially stepped into the Big Time in the Hockey World. Nico Hischier, the crafty Brig-born forward was selected 1st overall in the 2017 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. He had a fantastic year... It could go on.
- and that will have to be for another time.
If you’re not on board for the Swiss Bundesliga hockey playoffs – you’re really missing something. The playoff games this year were fantastic.
If you’re Swiss and in Canada or if you’re Canadian wanting to follow your favorite Canadians in the Swiss leagues, here’s where to go:
Nip & Jack will watch next year to see who will try to de-throne ZSC’s version of a winning Swiss hockey culture. If you can’t join them down at the Enge... be sure not to miss out on line!