Olympics: Team Switzerland

By Joeri Loonen

Switzerland isn’t automatically qualified for the main Olympic hockey tournament. They will first have to qualify in a group with Belarus, Ukraine and France. During the tournament the league will be halted. Also will there be a transfer freeze during that period to prevent Nationalliga B teams to acquire players in a bid to boost their teams for a short period.

The following players have been selected to deal with the task of qualification:

Goalies:

David Aebischer Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
Martin Gerber Färjestads BK (SWE)
Lars Weibel HC Davos

Defense:

Martin Höhener EHC Kloten
Olivier Keller HC Lugano
Edgar Salis ZSC Lions
Mathias Seger ZSC Lions
Martin Steinegger SC Bern
Mark Streit ZSC Lions
Patrick Sutter HC Lugano
Julien Vauclair Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

Forwards:

Jean-Jacques Aeschlimann HC Lugano
Björn Christen HC Davos
Flavien Conne HC Lugano
Gian-Marco Crameri ZSC Lions
Patric Della Rossa ZSC Lions
Patrick Fischer (HC Davos>
Sandy Jeannin HC Lugano
Marcel Jenni Färjestads BK (SWE)
Martin Plüss EHC Kloten
André Rötheli HC Lugano
Ivo Rüthemann SC Bern
Reto von Arx HC Davos

Headcoach: Ralph Krueger

Assistants: Jakob Kölliker, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson Färjestads BK (SWE)

Stand-by

Marco Bührer SC Bern
Patrick Fischer EV Zug
David Jobin SC Bern
Alain Demuth Ambrì-Piotta
Thierry Paterlini HC Davos
Marc Reichert SC Bern
Michel Riesen HC Davos
Thomas Ziegler SC Bern

Reto von Arx, Martin Höhener, Björn Christen, Ivo Rüthemann, the from a knee injury recovering Patrick Fischer and Julien Vauclair were awarded the final 6 roster spots.

The roster includes quite a lot of surprises. So was Björn Christen’s selection over Alain Demuth, who was a lock on the national team in the past years and played on the most successful Swiss line during the last WC, not expected by many. But Christen’s current form gave him the edge.

On defense Julien Vauclair was given the spot after he was given clearance by Ottawa. Another North-Ameican based defenseman was not selected, much to the surprise and disappointment of Swiss fans. Goran Bezina was one of the best defensemen in the league last season and had a good pre-season camp with Phoenix. However his play with Springfield in the AHL this year has been such a disappoint- ment for the coaching staff that they decided not to select Bezina. Not just his bad current form but also lack of ice time with the Falcons was a reason behind it. Added to that is his terrible +/- rating of -15 (one of the worst on the team) and his shooting ineffectivity (1 goal on 43 shots).

Also recently returned Thomas Ziegler and Michel Riesen didn’t make the team. After their return from North-America their play hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the coaching staff.

Who did make the team in the end is Reto on Arx, the first Swiss goal scorer in the NHL. He wasn’t included until the final selection. Despite being perhaps the best Swiss forward available, coach Krüger, who is a big fan of the team effort, felt that Von Arx couldn’t put his ego aside and play for the team. This attitude is/was one of the reasons Von Arx isn’t playing in North-America anymore as he felt he was good enough for the NHL and he didn’t accept his ‘demotion’ to the AHL. Von Arx criticized the headcoach’ pre-selection that didn’t had a single HC Davos player included. “To me that is something I can’t understand! It doesn’t make sense at all! We have proven to have the best forwards in the league. Maybe I should have another look at my personal priorities in hockey and the national team in the future.”

Reto von Arx almost put himself offside with these comments but got the ‘relieving’ call in the end and now has a chance to prove his coach wrong to have picked him so late.