Sunday, 16 September 2012

Two games, Two countries

I am going to condense two gamedays into one post here, as there’s not a lot really to talk about apart from the games, as travel has taken up a lot of my time over the last two days.

After the great game in Davos, it was time to head north to the biggest city in Switzerland, Zurich, for the big derby between the Kloten Flyers and the NLA champions, the ZSC Lions. After a lie in (praise the lord for the 11am check out time), I made the trip to Zurich, dropping my things off at the hostel and had around an hour and a half to nose around Zurich for the first time, and I must say that it didn’t really take my fancy. It was nice and all, but it was really crowded, and reminded me of a less nice London, so I think I’ll pass on Zurich in the future.

Soon though it was time to head on the S-Bahn to the north of the city, to Kloten, to a rink that was situated in the middle of a park it seemed like. It was a good ten minutes through a thicket to get to the arena, which really was in the middle of nowhere. Still, there were private security guys decked out in full riot gear in case the Swiss kicked off. I had already bought my ticket, and by the time I got to the arena it would have been too late to get a good place in the standing sector, so I was seated at the top of the side blocks towards the goal Kloten were shooting at for two periods. Strangely I thought, both of the fans standing sectors were next door to each other, with only a couple of security guards minding the plexi glass that separated the bitter rivals. Kloten also lost out to Davos in both the beer prices (4.50Fr for 300ml of beer!), and also their outdoor ice rink had melted. It seems I chose wisely.

Kloten, who almost went bust in the offseason are in stark contrast to their city rivals ZSC. The Lions like to splash the cash, and have created a pretty decent AHL all star team, as they picked up Ryan Shannon, Gilbert Brule, Jeff Tambellini and Matt Lashoff from NHL clubs, whilst they also had Roman Wick, who made the switch following the money problems to ZSC. Another interesting player for ZSC was 1995 born Phil Baltisberger, arguably the best Swiss prospect over the next couple of years. I did find it odd that he started out in defence and then moved to forward, but getting a regular shift for such a good team in the NLA at his age is quite remarkable. Kloten, who had to scrape as much money as they could get just to start the season, came out of a giant inflatable Toyota holding a banner which said “Kloten lives, many thanks”. The thanks of course being to the fans who reached into their pocket heavily to back their team.

In a strange twist of events, just before the game started, a group of kids sat in the seats next to me, and I overheard them speaking in perfect English. Turns out I was sitting next to some kids who were living in Switzerland and had English blood in them somewhere. One of them was especially eager, as it turns out he was a Davos fan too, and he kept asking me about the game I saw the night before. The parents were sitting in the row in front, and one of them started talking to me, describing how he’d been in Hockley Heath in the morning. Small world eh.. I ended up with a free packet of Malteasers though, as they had bought one too many! I also talked sporadically with the woman sitting next to me, a die hard Kloten fan, who shouted “Scheisse” so many times I couldn’t count.

The game didn’t really hot up until a six goal second period sent the teams into the second break tied at 3:3. Kloten turned on the style early on, as Felicien Du Bois scorched the twine with a rocket of a slapshot on the point. Soon after Du Bois turned provider, as another of his slaphots caused a rebound off Lukas Flueler, and Marcel Jenni, in his top scorer’s helmet and jersey tucked in the rebound. However, Roman Wick was going to prove to be a thorn in his old team’s side, and ten seconds after Jenni’s goal, he burst through the middle of the Kloten defensive pair, and roofed the puck on Rueger to the delight of the ZSC faithful, who seemed to have burned out after their flashing of dollar bills at the Kloten fans resulted in a chorus of whistles and boos. Micki Dupont made it 3:1 Kloten with a weak goal from the point, but then ZSC came rallying back. Kloten kept taking stupid penalties, and ZSC’s powerplay was white hot. First Ryan Shannon tapped in a rebound, before Wick bagged his second after ZSC had killed a whole two minutes of 5 on 3.

The third period was tepid in comparison to the blockbuster second, and as the time wound down, it was always going to be a mistake which ended up costing the game for either side. However it turned out that it would be Rueger who would drop the clanger, as after gifting a juicy rebound off a weak shot, the follow up effort ended up trickling right through his five hole. So Kloten would go down 4:3 at home to their rivals, and it was now six games and six defeats for teams that I wanted to win on this trip.

Sunday saw me leave Zurich early and head for Munich, where I’d be at the mid-afternoon game between the new look EHC Red Bull Munchen and Dusseldorf. EHC were also spared collapse in the summer by being taken over by the evil Red Bull company, who have changed their logo and ruined their brilliant looking old jersies. In comparison, DEG had the best looking jersies of any team on this trip so far. The definition of vintage done right. One thing that the DEL does right: prices. It cost me €12 as a student to get into the standing places at the Olympia Eishalle, although they may want to start charging more if they are only getting 2,610 through the door. A shocking number of people. Still, the price was so cheap (I was expected nearly double that), so I treated myself to a beer and a bratwurst! Result.

However, the one thing that the DEL didn’t do right on this showing was the hockey. Dear oh dear it was a grim game to watch at times. Even the first game I saw, the pre-season game between Zilina and Trencin was played at a better tempo and with fewer mistakes. DEG opened the scoring early in the first period, after a defensive mess gave Nikolaus Mondt all the time in the world to deke past Jochen Reimer and score with under ninety seconds on the clock. Note: German’s love hanging things on anything to make their place known. For example, I showed up to the standing block with 45 minutes to go before face off. It took me a good few minutes to find a spare space as 90% of them were taken up by scarves on the handrail, in the same way that Germans in Majorca put the towel on the sunbed at 6:30 in the morning.

The second period finally saw some good hockey starting to be played, and Martin Buchwieser tied the game up for EHC. He cut from the left hand wing and managed to backhand it past Bobby Goepfort, a player I’ve always wanted to be Trevor Koenig’s replacement ever since he left the Blaze. EHC’s choice of goal music: Nellie the elephant. Thankfully when they scored again two minutes later, they played Rocking all over the world by Status Quo. It was Toni Ritter who got the goal, backhanding the rebound after the puck hit the crossbar.

DEG were the better side in the third period, and they equalised soon into it, as Carl Ridderwall one timed a slapshot on the edge of the zone which flew past Reimer into the top corner, a wicked shot. Then things began to get feisty, so feisty that a fight broke out. Soren Sturm and Bernie Ebner both went toe to toe, in a scrap then resembled wrestling more than anything, and received 2+2+10 for their troubles, whilst two minutes later an even worse state of affairs broke out. Ulli Maurer got caught up in front of the DEG bench, and soon he was pounced upon by Jannick Woidtke. Woidtke dropped both his gloves and started laying into Maurer, who wanted nothing to do with it and was patiently waiting for the referees to step in and do something. By this time the Munich fans were livid, and started hurling their beer mugs at the netting. There is a one euro deposit on each of the mugs, so one smart kid from the sitting sector ran down the stairs and soon ended up with around fifteen mugs in his hand. Good work lad. This pretty much summed up the EHC fanbase, who were without doubt the most annoying fanbase I think I’ve seen. Firstly, they complained every single time an EHC player fell over, even when checked fairly. Secondly, they really don’t sing well at all, and the group of teenagers who thought they were god’s gift to ultras at the front really didn’t impress me. Ho hum.

The game would go to overtime as both teams really failed to put anything decent on net as time ran out, but then Ridderwall would get his second of the game and the overtime winner which sent the fifty or so DEG fans loony. It was a shocker for Reimer, as an innocuous shot went right through him to seal the game with two minutes gone in overtime. So yeah, no buys on the DEL for me. The NLA seems to be the only new league I’ll follow after this trip!

Jon Rowson’s white glove watch: Awful. None at all in both games. Very disappointed. 0/10 Marek Ivan’s.

Next stop: Bratislava (again).

That’s all for now:


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