It’s official; my clothing will smell like cheese for the next few days and I don’t mind a bit. Last night we had fondue with Beda Zengg, the man who will be in charge of catering at the House of Switzerland in Vancouver and Whistler during the 2010 Olympic Games.
Originally from Ontario, Beda’s family is Swiss and he has spent most of his adult life over here (even completing his tour in the Swiss Army). He joined us at Adler’s Swiss Chuchi in Zurich and told us all the proper way to prepare and feast upon the cheesy dish, which is as much a social event as it is a dinning experience.
During 2010 he will be preparing not only Swiss traditions such as fondue but also modern delicacies that the country can bring to the table and offer its athletes and guests.
After the fondue, we headed over to the Hollenstadion (the country’s only multi-purpose arena) to watch EV-Zug take on the ZCS Lions in tournament play. We were swept up to a private box and greeted by Florian Zimmerman from EV-Zug to get a rundown of the differences between the NHL and Swiss hockey league play.
Assembled by Florian Zimmerman – Number8 Ltd.
The crowd of bout 6,000 was chanting as though it were a football match, calling out players’ names in unison and taunting the opposing fans that sat across the arena. The pace was quick, the clock ran up (instead of down), the rink was wide, and if there was any inkling of a fight at all, play was stopped. The Lions came out on top with a strong 4-1 finish and we even got to see some play from former Vancouver Canuck, Josh Holden.
I also came to realize that no matter what country you are in, hockey arena music is pretty much all the same as our ears were treated to AC/DC, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and even a special Nickelback roundup.
Following the game Doug Shedden coach of EVZug (also former Maple Leaf & Nordiques player) came up to the box to chat with our group. Shedden coached team Finland to a bronze medal in the 2008 World Championships and has a real passion for not only the game of hockey, but also being a part of the Swiss league. He jested that road games don’t mean over-nighters across the continent, moreso a short bus ride home (or the equivalent of about two beers). With a maximum of about 400km to travel to play a visiting team, it’s nothing compared to thousands of miles NHL teams must travel to meet opposing conference rivals.
In the past year I’ve experienced hockey games from Burnaby, to Vancouver, and even Moline, Illinois. However, being able to witness European hockey at this level (and in Switzerland to boot) is the ultimate hockey pilgrimage for a fan like me.