JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – Switzerland centre Martin Plüss was the biggest off-season signing for SC Bern, the team that badly wants to succeed in the Champions Hockey League and also to win the Swiss title.
However, Plüss hasn’t played a single game for his new team yet, nor in the National League A, nor in the pre-season.
A pelvis inflammation forced him to be sidelined for weeks. His comeback was planned for end of October, but now he’s here, in Jönköping, Sweden, to be part of game Day One of the Champions Hockey League.
“It went surprisingly quick, said Plüss after the game-day skate. Just a week ago things looked bad and it seemed to be impossible to be ready for the first CHL group stage game. But now I have the green light. I’m not hundred per cent fit but ready enough to give it a try. I’ll need some more weeks to be in top shape.”
Plüss is no stranger in the Kinnarps Arena. He played the 2002 IIHF World Championship here and from 2004 to 2008, he played for Frölunda Gothenburg, the archrival of HV71. He knows his opponent well.
“They’re an absolute top team in Sweden despite the bad start of the season. They have strong defence, they’re quick, they have a good transition game and power play. They’re nice to watch and inspiring to play against,” Plüss describes the opponent.
SC Bern on the other hand had a good start with eight wins in ten league games and also winning both matches in the Champions Hockey League Qualifying Tournament in Nuremberg, Germany.
Plüss knows how HV71 might be feeling now. He won the golden helmet of the Swedish champion in 2005 but Frölunda couldn’t repeat the success. In 2007, the club missed the playoffs and in 2008 they lost in the quarterfinals despite having a top team on paper.
After several coaching changes, Plüss had enough and left Gothenburg to join the Swiss top club that had been chasing him for years.
Playing his first SCB game in Jönköping is special for him. “I want to win here and I’m very excited. I always enjoyed playing here with Frölunda,” Plüss said.
He’s also looking forward to be able to make a direct comparison between the National League A and the Swedish Elitserien. The Elitserien has the reputation to be the stronger league even though Swedish teams haven’t confirmed that status in European competition recently.
“They play more defensively and physically than in the NLA. And their league and teams are more balanced,” he identified as the main differences. We’ll see it tonight.