Saturday, August 1, 2009
Today is Swiss National Day, first celebrated in Bern in 1891 on the 600th anniversary of the Federal Charter of 1291, also known as the Letter of Alliance, which documented the union of three "cantons" in what is now central Switzerland, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. The three regions allied for defense purposes and eventually grew into modern Switzerland.
Following a public vote in 1993, it was made an official holiday in 1994 and is celebrated each year with paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags and fireworks.
The Swiss National Ice Hockey Team is a founding member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) which is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland. While not considered one of the elite hockey nations when it comes to gold medals and championships, the Swiss are a knocking on the door of being in the top echelon and are currently ranked 7th in the 2009 IIHF rankings, ahead of Belarus, Slovakia, Latvia, Norway and Germany.
Despite not having won a medal in the World Championships since 1953, they are not a team one dares to overlook, as they defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 and shutout traditional hockey power Canada 2-0 two days later during the 2006 Olympics in Turin, making it as far as the quarterfinals.
The goaltender for Switzerland during their 3-2 win over the Czechs was former Colorado Avalanche netminder David Aebischer, perhaps the best known player from Switzerland, along with goalie Martin Gerber, Jonas Hiller and defenseman and Swiss National Team captain Mark Streit.
Aebischer was chosen 161st overall by Colorado in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft while playing for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in the Swiss National League A. He played a couple of seasons for the Hershey Bears of the AHL before moving up to join the Avalanche in 2000-01 where he would have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as a backup to Patrick Roy. He would become the Avs #1 goalie for the 2003-04 season, following the retirement of Roy after the 2003 playoffs, and have a fine season, finishing with a 32-19-9 record and a goals against average of 2.09.
Following the lockout season of 2004-05, when Aebischer played for HC Lugano of Switzerland, he would return to the Avalanche for the 2005-06 season, only to be traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the trading deadline. He would play one full season in Montreal before signing a free agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, only to lose out in the crowded goaltending battle and find himself briefly in the AHL before returning to HC Lugano on loan, where he has now played two seasons.
In Switzerland, SC Bern traditionally leads all of Europe in attendance figures, last season averaging 16,172 fans per game, with no other club over 13,800 and only five over 10,000. The next highest Swiss club is Champions League winners ZSC Lions at #12 with 7,720. SC Bern has lead all of Europe in attendance for eight consecutive seasons. The Swiss National League A as a whole ranks second in Europe with an average of 6,073, second only to Sweden's Elitserien's 6,260 and ahead of the top leagues in Germany, Russia, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Switzerland National Team David Aebischer jersey as worn in the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia. This jersey was originally purchased with "Swiss" wordmark logos on the shoulders as worn in 2005, but I instructed my customizers to create the Swiss flag patches out of twill (seen here more clearly on a white jersey). I also added some of my custom made "Tissot" sponsorship patches to give it the look of a World Championships jersey. The IIHF new logo patch on the rear hem completes the look of one of my favorite jerseys in my collection.
Some of my other favorite elements of this jersey are it's red, white and black color combination, the retro feeling lace-up neck collar and the distinctive number font used by only Switzerland and Finland during this time period.
Today's video selections begin with highlights of Switzerland's victories over the Czech Republic and Canada from the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.
Next up is a highlight video Switzerland from the 2008 World Championships, including their 4-2 win over Sweden. Be sure to notice their throwback jerseys from the first game versus France.
Here is an impressive display by the Swiss fans prior to a game in where else but Bern, prior to a game vs. Germany in the 2009 World Championships hosted by Switzerland chanting "Hopp Schwiiz! Hopp Schwiiz!", the traditional Swiss fans cheer of support.
Here is a highlight video of some spectacular saves by David Aebischer while playing for not only Colorado, but also HC Lugano and Switzerland.
While we generally go out of our way to avoid posting fight videos given another choice, there's always something about a goalie fight that amuses us, and when you combine that with the fact this is from Aebischer's time with the Hershey Bears, we just couldn't pass this one up.