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.
After failing to earn a spot in the quarterfinals in last year’s Under-18 World Junior Championship following a heartbreaking loss to Germany, Team Switzerland is looking for rehabilitation with a new coaching staff and four returning players from the 2011 tournament.
Hockey fans in Calgary were no doubt excited to have the chance to view the hometown Flames’ top prospect, Sven Baertschi, who was a part of Switzerland‘s 2012 World Juniors squad. But Baertschi suffered an injury early in Switzerland’s second game of the tournament and, as a result of that injury, missed the rest of the tournament.
Baertschi talked about the disappointment of missing most of the tournament following Switzerland’s final game, a 2-1 loss to the USA.