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Servette wins Champions Hockey League

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Servette wins Champions Hockey League

Swiss ice hockey fluctuates between international match sadness and Champions League excitement. The Swiss league is first class. This will also help the national team in the long run.

Geneva/Servette celebrated their first triumph in the Champions Hockey League on Wednesday evening.

Salvatore Di Nolfi / AP

They were moments for history, moments that made even long-time observers’ pulses race with excitement. Geneva/Servette led 3-2 in the Champions League final against Skelleftea from Sweden. There were just under three minutes left to play. And Valtteri Filppula, the Finnish striker who has already been a Stanley Cup winner, world champion and Olympic champion in his career and is therefore one of only 30 members of the so-called Triple Gold Club, was in the penalty box.

Of all people, the 39-year-old veteran had put his team in danger again with a hook in the offensive zone. Skelleftea pushed for the equalizer with six field players and no goalkeeper. But it didn’t fall anymore.

Geneva/Servette became the second Swiss team after the ZSC Lions in 2009 to win the Ice Hockey Champions League on Tuesday evening. Around 10,000 people celebrated their team in and at the public viewing in front of the stadium. Exactly 300 days after the first championship title in the club’s history last spring in the play-off final against EHC Biel, Geneva/Servette were also crowned champions of Europe.

It is a great moment for Swiss ice hockey, an event that is unimaginable for Swiss football. There is international competition to consider. A year ago, FC Basel reached the semi-finals of the European Conference League, the third most important competition in European club football, where they were defeated by Italian representatives Fiorentina. No Swiss representative has ever gone further.

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Without qualifying for the final, Geneva/Servette would have suffered a loss

Ice hockey is not football, and the international competitions between the two sports are worlds apart. A year ago, FC Basel earned around 9 million francs in prize money from its success. If he had qualified for the final, at least another 2 million would have been added. Servette receives a check of 250,000 francs for his victory. Without qualifying for the final, the competition would have been a losing proposition for the club due to the high travel costs.

The Champions Hockey League is organized as a joint stock company in which 26 clubs (63 percent), 6 European leagues (25) and the international association (12) participate. The total prize money is 2.5 million francs. Patrick Lengwiler, the CEO of EV Zug, sits on the league’s management board as a club representative. He says that as long as the contract with the current marketer Infront runs (2028), one cannot expect higher prize money. “But we never made an operating loss in the years in which we played with the EVZ.” In the group phase, interest in the competition is not quite as high. Between 3,500 and 4,500 spectators came to the group games in Zug. In the championship, the average is 7,000. Sold-out arenas like on Tuesday in Geneva only occur in the decisive phase.

The highlights of Tuesday’s final.

Youtube

Nevertheless, every attempt to establish a European club competition on the calendar has failed sooner rather than later. In contrast to football, the top European teams in ice hockey lack recognition. Tappara Tampere or Skelleftea don’t have the ring of the names of Real Madrid or Manchester United.

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Despite the different requirements in football and ice hockey: the euphoria in sport cannot be measured by the amount of prize money. Anyone who has seen the excitement on the faces of the Geneva players and their fans will not say that the title had less meaning for them because millions were not at stake. For the Geneva Annex, the title meant the world. Coach Jan Cadieux said after the match that the victory was reward for the hard work his team had put in over the past year and a half.

Observers of the Swiss ice hockey scene felt like they were in two worlds. Ten days ago, the national team with coach Patrick Fischer had a lackluster performance in Sweden and suffered defeats number 9 to 11 in a row. In the 2:5 defeat against Sweden, the team had to endure a real lesson. Fischer had a selection available to him in the far north, which a leading association official described as “Switzerland C”. His team had no chance.

The blessing of the strong foreigners

Unlike football, the national championship in ice hockey is one of the leading in Europe. Since the Russian KHL was excluded because of the war in Ukraine, the level of sport has risen again. Outside the NHL and the KHL, wages are nowhere higher and living conditions are nowhere better than here. That’s why top foreigners like Servette’s Finnish world champions and Olympic champions Jussi Olkinoura, Sami Vatanen, Teemu Hartiainen and Sakari Manninen flock to the National League.

The high-profile foreigners, who, among other things, see leading association officials as a “mortgage for the Swiss players” because they take away their places, are in fact a blessing for Swiss ice hockey and have once again significantly raised the level in the league. Sooner or later the national team will also benefit from this development.

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Geneva is therefore proud of the success of its eagles, which are based on Finnish craftsmanship. Former President Marco Torriani contacted the NZZ by email from South Africa on Wednesday night and wrote: “Who would have dreamed of something like that. You can only be proud of these guys and especially of Jan Cadieux. Now the club has won a European Cup title after a Cup title in the 1950s, two Spengler Cup victories and a championship title. Fabulous, incredible. It’s high time you got yourself a nice trophy case.” The euphoria on Lake Geneva is limitless.

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