Russian stars shine in Switzerland

Determined Gazprom team spoils Swiss legends party

Berne  Switzerland

Russian legend Andrei Kovalenko shoots against local hero Renato Tosio. Photo: Getty Images/Vladimir Rys

BERNE – The legs might be rusty, but the skill is still there. As the New York Rangers and Metallurg Magnitogorsk were preparing for the Victoria Cup, the fans who arrived early got a chance to see history repeating. A team made of Swiss legends hosted the Russian legends of HC Gazprom Export but ended up losing 5-9.

The Russian selects, captained by KHL President, IIHF Council Member and Deputy Chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee, Alexander Medvedev, bolstered a squad that combines for over 50 IIHF World Championships highlighted by the likes of Vyacheslav Fetisov, Valeri Kamensky and Andrei Kovalenko.

“It’s always fun to play these games against old friends,” claimed Fetisov. “It’s good for us, good for the fans.”

His teammate Andrei Kovalenko could only agree. “It’s lots of fun to play these games. We travel a lot and that gives us the opportunity to see old friends. Recently we played in Germany and I met my old Quebec Nordiques coach (Don Jackson),” Kovalenko says enthusiastically. Currently being the president of the KHL player association, Kovalenko is no longer in a position to easily keep up with former team mates. “These games offer us a chance to stay in touch with old friends.”

The Swiss fans in Berne had the opportunity to see former national team heroes like Jörg Eberle, Felix Hollenstein and Jakob Kölliker, an IIHF Hall of Famer and head coach of the U20 national team, back on the ice. Nevertheless, the loudest noise came when Renato Tosio’s name was announced. The goaltender spent almost all his career with SC Bern for whom he dressed up during 13 seasons (1987-2001). Of course he treated the crowd with his trademark jump when he left the ice midway through the game much to the delight of the fans.

Tosio proved to be still capable of making stellar saves as he stoned the Russians on numerous occasions. Completely in line with what they are known for, the Swiss timing was perfect. With less than a minute left to play in the first period, they struck twice to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the second period.

The Gazprom team returned on the ice fully refueled. Both teams exchanged a pair of goals before the blue-white dressed Russians scored three unanswered goals within a minute.

The lead was there for good.

The Olympic and World Championship gold medal-loaden Russian team never looked back and added another four goals in the final period leaving the Swiss legends empty-handed.

Valeri Kamensky led the Russians with a goal and four assists. Andrei Kovalenko, Vyacheslav Fetisov and Lev Berdichevsky finished with two goals each.

 “We did not want to lose,” Fetisov said afterwards. The head of the Russian Federal Agency for Physical Culture and Sports (Rossprt) has been one of the most decorated players on international stage with three Olympic and nine IIHF World Championships medals, most of them gold.

“We were brought up to win, so that includes games like these. It’s a mentality you will always carry with you when you step on the ice.”

Also the Swiss enjoyed the legends’ meeting on the ice. “It was exciting to see those guys and to play on that level,” said Kölliker, who captained the Swiss legends. “Unfortunately we lost the game at the end. One could see that they play together more often and we should aim for having more games like this.”

However, at first he’s looking forward to tonight’s Victoria Cup game. “It will be interesting, I think both teams will improve compared to the game yesterday.”


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