The SCB, Servette and the repetition of the great hockey revolution of 1979
Defending the title is still possible thanks to a strong goalkeeper. SC Bern kept Servette at bay. But the Bernese cannot stop time. The big hockey revolution will overwhelm them.
Predictions are difficult. Especially if they concern the future. We expected the SCB again at the top this season and Servette at the bottom of the table. Servette will fight for the league lead in January 2020 and the SCB for the last playoff place? That seemed impossible, downright absurd.
And now, looking back, everything has its logic. Servette succeeded in the revolution. Revolution? Yes, it is a revolution. With one special feature: As a rule, the boss and usually also the sports director have to go on board when there is a change. The North Americans call this process “House Cleaning”. Everyone who had something to say in the sports department has to go. Just like in Davos. The “Arno Del Curto era”, which lasted more than 20 years, is already over and forgotten. A good year after the departure of his cult coach and the playouts, the HCD is again in the top group of the league. With a new trainer, new assistants and a new sports director.
In Geneva, Chris McSorley (58) had an even stronger position than Arno Del Curto (63) in Davos. In addition to all executive functions in the sports area, unlike Arno Del Curto, he also had the safe key in his pocket and was a co-owner of the club. A fresh start at Servette, but with Chris McSorley? Impossible. But the impossible has become possible for three reasons: With a contract until 2024, Chris McSorley, unlike Arno Del Curto, is indispensable for financial reasons alone (Arno Del Curto even went voluntarily). Second: Chris McSorley is actually able to be “just” the sports director and so Servette is lucky that his enormous hockey skills are retained. Third, the Canadian had prepared the revolution.
The construction of a new arena with corresponding economic opportunities will not be possible in Geneva in the foreseeable future. When the most important patron of the world, Gennady Timchenko, left the Russian commodities billionaire, speculation about a possible bankruptcy was even in the local media last season. In retrospect, Chris McSorley says that he sensed five years ago that the money could become scarce. He cleverly sold his shares in the company and in return negotiated his pension contract with the new owners until 2024. And now his concept is bearing fruit: “We have invested a lot in young people to secure our future. My calculation is simple: if we have very good goalkeepers and foreigners, then it is possible to supplement the team with young players and to finance them with a lower budget. The crucial question was: would the boys be able to keep up straight away? »
You can. Against the SCB coach Patrick Emond (55) used no less than seven players who are 22 or younger and thus make up a third of the team. Among them with Roger Karrer (22), Marco Miranda (21) also two by the ZSC Lions have been fetched. All players who could not play under Kari Jalonen at the SCB.
The biggest miracle, however, is that the power-conscious Chris McSorley has withdrawn to the position of sports director, doesn’t talk to his trainer, no longer visits the cabin and doesn’t interfere in the media. Such a withdrawal of a charismatic gang general who has held all power in his hands for more than a decade (he came to Geneva in 2001) is extremely rare. He explains it with a sense of self-irony: “I now have the best job there is: if we play well, we all boast of the good foreigners and the good transfers for which I am responsible, if we don’t play well, the coach will be criticized … »And he also deserves good.
The deeper truth is that Chris McSorley had no choice. The new owners – the Rolex Foundation – pushed through his withdrawal and the savings program. But that the Canadian is accepting the downgrading and implementing it constructively – that is truly a miracle. He says it was clear to him that the elite junior coach was the perfect coach for this rejuvenated team. “He knows these players.” And so Patrick Emond became head coach without any experience with a professional team. U-20 coach Christian Wohlwend also traveled to Geneva to introduce himself to the board of directors. “But it didn’t matter. Patrick Emond was our man from the very beginning and I had the last word in choosing a coach. »Christian Wohlwend is now coaching him HC Davos, It is a good thing.
The difference in appearance between the old and new Servette trainers couldn’t be greater. A critic last autumn said that Patrick Emond had less charisma than Chris McSorley’s domestic cat. Well that’s right. He is a kind, humble man and speaks in a low voice. In Bern he even wears the jacket with the logo of the youth department (“the other one is in the laundry”). But you can feel that this man is on a mission. “We knew from the start that it would be difficult. When we lost 0: 5 to Düsseldorf shortly before the start of the season, I already had some concerns. When we won 12-0 against Saas Valley in the Cup without using our foreigners, I thought: Okay, let’s try. Either way, we have no choice but to take it game by game. It was like that at the beginning of the season and it remains so now. »The here and now, the present is lived. And what also helps him: He is Canadian and everyone in the club knows that Chris McSorley is behind him. And nobody messes with him.
Chris McSorley says why the calculation worked: “We have the strongest goalkeeper duo in the league. We have a goalie in every game that gives us a chance to win a game. We have four very good foreigners and the seasoned players and the boys get along well. »The league is so balanced that foreigners play a decisive role. For comparison: At Servette, four foreign field players have so far produced 110 scorer points. At the SCB four, only 80.
The rejuvenation is an interesting factor: At 24.97 years, Servette has the youngest team in the league and the SCB at 28.48 years one of the oldest in the league. Since the youngest from trainer Kari Jalonen (60) have no or hardly any ice age anyway, it is actually the oldest. Just two years ago, the average age for Servette was 26.41 and for SCB 28.11. So Servette is younger and more successful, the SCB older and less successful this season.
Can Servette stay in front? Chris McSorley makes an interesting calculation: “We should actually be able to keep the young players for about five years and we can do even better during that time.”
And why is there talk of the great hockey revolution of 1979? The SC Bern and Servette remind of the NHL revolution that began in 1979: The Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky come into the NHL and the decade of firewagon hockey begins. In 1984 the Oilers overthrew the New York Islanders dynasty who won the Stanley Cup four times in a row (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983). The NHL has never been more spectacular and aggressively productive than it was in the 1980s and many still believe that the game has never been better than it was in these years of “firewagon hockey”. I can only agree with this assessment.
The SC Bern (three titles in four years) reminds of these glorious Islanders. And Servette a little to the young, wild Oilers (but without a player like Wayne Gretzky). And because no team from the West had ever won the Stanley Cup, the Oilers were initially not taken seriously by the Titans of the East. Just as now with us the teams from the west don’t really take them seriously. Never since the introduction of the playoffs (1985/86) has the title been awarded further west than to Bern.
The direct confrontation of yesterday’s hockey with the hockey of today and tomorrow has not yet brought a decision between SC Bern and Servette: The SCB lost 1-2 in Geneva on Friday and won 3-2 in Bern in Saturday. The playoffs are still possible.
But the revolution will overwhelm the SCB. The master tries to stop time, extends the contracts with the oldies and has already prolonged with coach Kari Jalonen until the end of next season. A charismatic gang general who relies on tactics and experience (“stencil hockey”) and is only interested in the result every day and not in further development. Quite like a Finnish answer to Al Arbor, the architect of the glorious New York Islanders. The SCB, as it has now been set up, can only be successful with “antique hockey”.
But not only Servette is playing that now ice Hockey from today and tomorrow. The first four in the table (Zug, Servette, Davos, the ZSC Lions) plus Biel and Ambri do it and consistently rely on well-structured «firewagon hockey» with young, dynamic teams. They will roll over the SCB in the next two years.
The Islanders never won a title after being dethroned in 1984. The SCB won’t be so bad. At some point, SCB general and co-owner Marc Lüthi will notice that not even he can stop the time.