BERNE – The Swiss national team was presented above the roofs of Berne’s picturesque old town with 40 candidates, including new Swiss citizen Ryan Gardner.
Prior to the presentation of the candidates which will play exhibition games in November, December and February, Switzerland head coach Ralph Krueger announced the goals for the 2009 IIHF World Championship, which will be played on home ice in Berne and Zurich-Kloten. “The first goal is the quarterfinals, our vision is to go for a medal,” Krueger said. “Just like the PostFinance Arena in Berne, we want to renew ourselves, to develop the offensive naughtiness we showed in Quebec City but at the same time we don’t want to let go our defence, which is our base.”
For Krueger it isn’t the first World Championship on home ice. He took over the national team prior to the 1998 World Championship in Zurich and Basle, which surprisingly ended in forth place for the Swiss. Defender Mathias Seger, and forwards Patrick Fischer, Martin Plüss, Ivo Rüthemann and new captain Sandy Jeannin are the only veterans left from the 1998 team.
Missing the 40-man cut were former NHL goalie David Aebischer, Flavien Conne and Adrian Wichser. Julien Vauclair resigned from the national team.
However, just like in previous years, Krueger added new hopefuls. Davos goalie Leonardo Genoni and SCL Tigers winger Mathias Bieber are the noteworthy rookies.
And there’s also a third new player: Ryan Gardner, who was naturalized last May. The towering winger is currently the scoring leader of the Swiss champion ZSC Lions Zurich, which will debut in the Champions Hockey League next week. He has 18 points (8+10) in 16 games so far.
Gardner hails from an NHL family. He’s the son of Dave Gardner and the nephew of Paul Gardner. Also his grandfather, Cal Gardner, was an NHL pro. After his NHL career, Dave Gardner played in Switzerland for HC Ambrì-Piotta and EHC Visp while his son Ryan learned to play hockey. After playing in the Ontario Hockey League, Ryan came back to his hockey roots and played for Ambrì-Piotta and HC Lugano before moving to Zurich in 2007. After 11 years as a hockey professional in Switzerland, he officially became Swiss in May 2008.
Gardner could debut for Switzerland on November 4th in Rapperswil-Jona against his native Canada. No problem for him. “Now as I’m Swiss ultimately, I want to fight for the country and to play in the World Championship,” Gardner said at the presentation speaking perfect German. He played for Team Canada in exhibition games in Switzerland including the Spengler Cup.
The 40 candidates were presented on a temporary mini-rink on a hotel terrace overlooking the picturesque old town of Berne, where Switzerland will play all World Championship games at the PostFinance Arena.
The list doesn’t include World Championship veterans playing in the NHL: goalies Martin Gerber (Ottawa), Jonas Hiller (Anaheim) and Tobias Stephan (Dallas) as well as New York Islanders defenceman Mark Streit. Krueger also couldn’t hide his enthusiasm about 18-year-old Philadelphia rookie Luca Sbisa, who became the youngest Swiss to skate in an NHL game.
The Swiss Ice Hockey Association also presented new billboard advertisement for exhibition games on home ice in Geneva, Sierre, Gstaad, Olten, Kreuzlingen and Kloten. The game against Slovakia (February 2, 2009) on the historic ice rink of Gstaad will be the first top-level national team outdoor game in decades. The billboards show greyed faces of the players with red eyes and slogans such as “We bring fire on ice” or “We’re burning to win”.
So far, 91,000 tickets have been sold for the 2009 IIHF World Championship
, mostly for Switzerland’s Preliminary Round Group B, and their potential Qualifying Group E as well as final round ticket packages. “We see this figures as very positive,” the Organizing Committee’s General Secretary Gian Gilli said. The OC has a goal to sell 303,000 tickets, which is two-thirds of the capacity of both venues.
MARTIN MERKThe 40-man candidate list
Goalkeepers (4): Thomas Bäumle (HC Ambrì-Piotta), Marco Bührer (SC Bern), Leonardo Genoni (HC Davos), Ronnie Rüeger (Kloten Flyers).
Defencemen (14): Goran Bezina (Servette Geneva), Severin Blindenbacher (ZSC Lions Zurich), Raphael Diaz (EV Zug), Félicien Du Bois (Kloten Flyers), Patrick Fischer (Rapperswil-Jona Lakers), Beat Forster (ZSC Lions Zurich), Philippe Furrer (SC Bern), Beat Gerber (SC Bern), John Gobbi (Servette Geneva), Timo Helbling (HC Lugano), Martin Höhener (Servette Geneva), Michael Ngoy (HC Fribourg-Gottéron), Mathias Seger (ZSC Lions Zurich), Patrick von Gunten (Kloten Flyers).
Forwards (22): Andres Ambühl (HC Davos), Patrik Bärtschi (SC Bern), Mathias Bieber (SCL Tigers Langnau), Duri Camichel (EV Zug), Thomas Déruns (Servette Geneva), Paul DiPietro (EV Zug), Patrick Fischer (EV Zug), Ryan Gardner (ZSC Lions Zurich), Peter Guggisberg (HC Davos), Sandy Jeannin (HC Fribourg-Gottéron-Gottéron), Romano Lemm (HC Lugano), Thibaut Monnet (ZSC Lions Zurich), Thierry Paterlini (HC Lugano), Martin Plüss (SC Bern), Marc Reichert (SC Bern), Kevin Romy (Lugano), Ivo Rüthemann (SC Bern), Raffaele Sannitz (HC Lugano), Julien Sprunger (HC Fribourg-Gottéron), Roman Wick (Kloten Flyers), Valentin Wirz (HC Fribourg-Gottéron), Thomas Ziegler (SC Bern).