Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Get To Know The Swiss National League A

During the NHL Lockout, we'll profile some of the different leagues all over the globe that 
you can turn to for your hockey fix and catch some NHLers in action while locked out. 
The Swiss National League A (NLA) is one of the oldest hockey leagues in the world having a championship history dating back to 1916 and has quickly become a top destination for ageing professional hockey players and locked out NHLers. The Swiss National League operates on a two-tier system in which the top league is represented as the "A" league and is considered the sixth best ice hockey league in Europe. The NLA's fanbase is not to be taken lightly as some Swiss teams draw greater crowds than NHL teams on a regular basis and the arena atmosphere is unrivalled. Swiss hockey is serious business.

Here are some of the things you can expect if you follow the Swiss National League A this year:

Structure

The 12 teams in the league play a 50 game season in which the top eight teams qualify for a playoff round where best-of-seven series are held to declare the Swiss Champion. Making things interesting in the NLA is that because it's two-tiered the bottom four teams in the regular season enter a play-out relegation round where best-of-seven series are held to see who is ranked 12th overall. This last place team will have to play for their spot in the NLA against the top team in the Swiss National League B to decide who will be in the top-tier next season. Imagine a deciding game seven playout to determine if you are relegated? That's intense.

Popularity

The Swiss National League A is the second most-attended league in Europe with an average of 6305 people attending games in 2011-12 and in 2010-11 the NLA actually held the title of most-attended hockey league in Europe ahead of the Swedish Elitserien. While most of the barns in the NLA have a capacity around 7500, NLA attendance is helped out in large part to the team based in the nations capital, SC Bern, who can fit over 17000 (most of them standing room) and fill enough seats on a regular basis to hold the title of the most-attended European hockey team for the tenth consecutive year.

Notable Players

Some notable ex-NHL players include Glen Metropolit, David Aebischer, Ryan Shannon, Brett McLean, Byron Ritchie, and Rico Fata. Recent Detroit Red Wings signee, Damien Brunner, led the league in regular season scoring last year with 60 points in 45 games and also shared the playoff scoring lead with 14 points in 9 games. There are also a few former Toronto Maple Leafs prospects floating around in the league with Simon Gamache one of the NLA's top scorers, Josh Holden a high-scoring power forward, Robbie Earl finding the net and Andy Wozniewski still a pylon. 

Similar to the 2004-05 Lockout, many North American NHLers are choosing Switzerland as their European destination with Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Logan Couture, Tyler Ennis, Jarred Spurgeon, and Max Pacioretty leading the first wave of NHLers joining teams in the NLA. They are also joined by the few Swiss-born NHLers - Mark Streit, Raphael Diaz, Roman Josi, Yannick Weber, and Luca Sbisa - who are going home for the lockout.

Top Scorer

You may have heard of European clubs and leagues giving a leading scorer a gold helmet to wear during games to award the player, but the Swiss National Leagues take it a step further. Since 2002, the National Leagues (A and B) top scorers on each team have worn a flaming helmet and jersey with TOP SCORER written in big font on the back. While these players look ridiculous, it's all for a good cause and growing hockey in Switzerland as for each point the top scorer gets means money donated to junior hockey in Switzerland. Since 2002, over 3 million Swiss francs have been raised for Swiss youth hockey which is pretty awesome despite having to look like a jackass in the process.

Spengler Cup

A Christmas holiday tradition, the Spengler Cup has been hosted annually by HC Davos since 1923 and is considered the worlds oldest invitational hockey tournament. Since 2010, six teams participate (before only 5) including the host HC Davos and one other NLA team. Three European teams from the KHL, Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Czech Extraliga, SM-liiga, and Swedish Elitserien are invited with the remaining spot given to Team Canada who has entered a team since 1984. The Canadian side is often made up of ex-NHLers playing in Europe or AHLers and makes for great conversation as you finally figure out what happened to certain players such as Joel Kwiatkowski, Stacy Roest and Brandon Reid.

Records

Single Season Records
Goals: Dave Gardner (51 goals)
Assists: Oleg Petrov (63 assists)
Points: Dave Gardner (94 points)
Shutouts: Marco B├╝hrer (9 shutouts)

All-Time Records (as of 9/25/12)
Goals: Peter Jaks (435 goals)
Assists: Reto von Arx (415 assists)
Points: Peter Jaks (783 points)
Shutouts: Renato Tosio (31 shutouts)

Fans

The fans of the NLA make for quite the atmosphere during games. While we've only see NLA teams in action during the Spengler Cup, the games just look like they would be a hell of a lot of fun to be at with chants and a loud crowd. Unfortunately there's passion and then there's stupidity as these crowds can be quite raucous with fights and riots escalating into hooliganism during and after games. Even just a few weeks ago there were 17 arrests at an exhibition game between NLA and NLB clubs. The issue of security at arenas is such a hot topic among Swiss politicians and the league that they even ban football hooligans from rinks to combat the persistent problem of hockey hooliganism. Riots on ice just don't look like they'd be that safe.

3 comments:

  1. Those top scorer jerseys are fucking hideous. They look something a 90s roller hockey team would wear.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Swiss League sucks
    WE WANT THE NHL

    ReplyDelete
  3. Swiss League is amazing !! And its not the sixth best ice hockey league in Europe. It's the third...
    The people in the barns always sing, all match long !!

    The NHL players who went there were like ''wow'', because of the people singing, the speed of the swiss players, and the life quality. Before saying ''that sucks'', ''we dont give a fuck'' or things like that, you should go there and watch a match !!!

    ReplyDelete

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