SCCC Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario)
 

SUISSE news Winter 2018 / December 2018

Ice Hockey in Canada and in Switzerland
Kurt Schl├Ąpfer

Since 1910, Canada and Switzerland faced each other in 142 hockey games, with the Canadians winning in most cases. The biggest win for Canada resulted at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix with 33:0. But at the Ice Hockey World Championship 2018 Switzerland shocked Canada with a 3-2 win in the semi-final match. Canada is currently ranked first in the IIHF World Rankings, while Switzerland is on rank seven. This article is not intended to give a history of hockey in both countries, but to highlight a few interesting aspects.

International Results of Canada and Switzerland      

Event

 

Canada

Switzerland

World

Championship

Appearance

71

68

Gold medal

26

0

Silver medal

14

3

Bronze medal

8

6

Olympic Games

 

Appearance

22

16

Gold medal

9

0

Silver medal

4

0

Bronze medal

3

2


Canada

Canada is regarded as the birthplace of ice hockey. A book with the title "How Hockey Explains Canada: The Sport That Defines a Country", written by hockey star Paul Henderson with a foreword by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is an example of how important this sport is in Canada. In 2004, when a poll was conducted to find the 10 greatest Canadians of all times, millions of Canadians chose two hockey players - Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry. Furthermore, showing a hockey scene on the back of a former five dollar bill is just another example of how close this sport is connected to the country.

Although hockey is the number one sport in Canada, the country does not have a national hockey league of its own for their professional players. Canadian teams play together with US teams in the National Hockey League (NHL), which currently comprises 24 teams from the United States and seven from Canada. Despite the fact that there are only seven Canadian teams, almost half of all NHL players hail from Canada. As of the 2017–18 season, the NHL has players from 17 different countries, with 46% coming from Canada. 30 years ago, this ratio was even at 75%.      

Canada is particularly famous for dominating international hockey events, with winning nine gold medals at the Olympics and 26 World Championship gold medals. Astonishingly, most medals were won without NHL players, because the NHL was not willing to accept a break of its schedule during international events. From 1920 – 1963, Canada used to send senior amateur club teams to international hockey events. Following the 1963 World Championships, Father David Bauer gained the approval to found a Canadian Olympic hockey team as a permanent institution, but still without NHL players. At the 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games, players from the NHL were finally permitted to participate. After five Olympic Games with full NHL participation, the NHL decided not to go to the 2018 Winter Games. Amongst other reasons, a survey revealed that 53% of Canadian and 73% of American hockey fans were against the Olympic break in play. As a result of this decision, Canada won only a bronze medal in Pyeong Chang. 


Switzerland

In international hockey events Switzerland achieved rather modest results: With 16 participations in the Olympic Games, only two bronze medals were won. 68 appearances at the World Championship resulted in three silver and six bronze medals. 

A noteworthy fact is the connection of the Swiss National League to players from Canada. Each team in the Swiss National League is allowed to sign on eight foreign players, with four being on the ice at the same time. Currently, 28 Canadians play in the 12 teams of the first Swiss League. An interesting statement comes from Ottawa Senators’ coach Guy Boucher, who was a coach in Switzerland from 2013 - 2016. He said when asked about the Swiss league: “It is a good and fast league, faster than the American Hockey League. I would not recommend for a 30- or 32-year-old former NHL player to go there, as the league is probably too fast for him."

Another interesting fact is that Switzerland benefited several times from a shutdown of the NHL championship due to a labour dispute (NHL lockout), especially in the seasons 2004-2005 and 2012-2013. In these two seasons, 43 and 23 NHL players respectively played in the Swiss League. The main reason to come to Europe was not the money, because all NHL players were losing money while the lockout lasted. The players aimed to maintain their fitness. Interestingly, the NHL players had to adapt to the Swiss style rather than vice versa. A Swiss coach said: "There’s less checking, more skating than in the NHL."

The NHL on the other hand also attracted many talented Swiss players. Since 1987, 99 Swiss players had been under contract in NHL teams, 33 of which were in Canadian teams. 

Hockey in Canada and in Switzerland: Facts and Figures             

 

Canada

Switzerland

Total Players

631,295

26,840

Male Players

102,207

11,109

Junior Players

442,163

14,382

Female Players

86,925

1,349

Total Referees

32,233

1,077

Indoor Rinks

3,300

111

Outdoor Rinks

5,000

193

Men's World Ranking

1

7

Women's World Ranking

2

6



Former five dollar bill with a hockey scene on the back