For the past two years, the under-20 national team of Switzerland has been desperately trying to reach the quarter-finals of the World Junior Championship. But, after two WJC's with heartbreaking losses in the decisive preliminary round game, and despite Swiss Ice Hockey’s success in avoiding relegation, the team saw a major coaching staff overhaul during the summer.
Sitting in a sea of peacoats, it’s difficult to feel unique.
The idea of scouting as an exercise in finding diamonds in the rough is long dead. This is particularly evident at talent gatherings like the Four Nations Tournament, which took place from November 6th thru the 10th in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Switzerland is still far from being a traditional hockey country, with soccer still the number one sport in that little landlocked country. However, the conditions for playing hockey over there are just perfect. Not only does the majority of Switzerland lie in an alpine environment, but its perfectly driven economics with loads of world-reknowned banks insure that everyone is wealthy and happy. At least, that's what Switzerland looks like from the outside.
The annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, considered by some to be the most prestigeous international hockey competition of players under eighteen years of age, was held last week in Břeclav, Czech Republic, and Piešťany, Slovakia. And as is usually the case in the world of hockey, some results and statistics were simply surprising.
Though some have called Switzerland a rising hockey power over the past few years, that ascension seems to have halted. Of course Switzerland had two Top-15 Picks over the last two years in the NHL Entry Draft, but both Nino Niederreiter (NYI) and Sven Baertschi (CAL) left Switzerland at the age of 17 and made the biggest progress in their development in North America.