Wednesday, July 18, 2012
July by the Numbers returns to the land of crazy hockey jerseys, Switzerland. What they lack in size, they make up for in brashness.
HC La Chaux-de-Fonds was founded back in 1919 as both a hockey and skating club, with the hockey club separating into it's own entity in 1925.
They first won a regional title in the western French speaking part of Switzerland in 1939. They later were a charter member of the National League B in 1948, winning their first championship in 1951.
HC La Chaux-de-Fonds playing outdoors in 1946
They were promoted to the National League A in 1955, but were relegated back to the National League B in 1958. It would take HC La Chaux-de-Fonds until 1965 to return to the National League A following their second NLB title, but once back in the NLA, they rose to a level of dominance which saw them win six Swiss consecutive Swiss national championships, those coming from 1968 through 1973.
Captain René Huguenin celebrating their sixth
consecutive championship in 1973
During that period of the club's greatest success, they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1969, the same season their outdoor rink, built in 1953 and only the sixth rink in Switzerland with artificial ice, had a roof installed for the first time.
The 1969 championship club
They club fell down to the National League B once again in 1979 before dropping to the Premier League, the third level of Swiss hockey, in 1984. Two seasons later they were back in the National League B, but sent back down once again in 1989.
They began their rise back up the ladder once again with a promotion in 1993 and a spot on the National League A playoff promotion series at the end of the season.
1994 saw the 75th anniversary of the club and a second time participating in the promotion playoffs.
Finally, at the end of the 1995-96 season, Chaux-de-Fonds won their third NLB title and were promoted to the NLA after an absence of 17 seasons. Their stay lasted two seasons before being sent back down to the NLB once again.
They competed for promotion again in 1999 and 2000 after their fourth NLB championship before a one year promotion in 2000-01, which only lasted one year before being immediately sent back down once again. A wild up-and-down period ensued, as the club were runners up in 2002, were forced to play to remain up in the NLB in 2003, and not only survived, but rebounded to play for a possible promotion to the NLA the very next season!
Since then they have remained in the NLB, participating in the promotion playoffs again in 2005 and 2007.
The club has retired four numbers in it's history, including #10 for Michel Turler, who was a member of Chaux-de-Fonds six consecutive championships, leading the league in scoring on four occasions. He played 110 international games for Switzerland, scoring 55 times, including playing at the 1972 Olympics where he was Switzerland's top goal scorer with 4 goals in 5 games.
No, it's not the Montreal Canadiens, it's Turler playing for HC La Chaux de Fond while they wore jerseys identical to the Canadiens during the early 1970's!
#2 has also been retired for René Huguenin, also a member of the 1972 Olympic team, as well as #17 for Gaston Pelletier and #14 Guy Dubois.
The club currently participates in the Swiss National League B, the second division of Swiss hockey, and it's roster is made up of a majority of semi-professional players, even going so far to solicit employers on their website who would wish to hire their players on a part-time basis!
The 2011-12 HC La Chaux-de-Fonds club
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 HC La Chaux de Fond Xavier Durini jersey. A wild affair, this loud design features no less than 14 advertisements, as if it weren't busy enough with the honeycombed background pattern!
In the often seen European style, the player's name takes a back seat to the sponsorship logo, which is placed above the number on the back, relegating the player's name to below the numbers.
We were unable to find a way to embed a visually exciting documentary of the glory days of HC La Chaux-de-Fonds, but it's 18 minutes of historical footage can be found at this link. Even if you do not want to invest 18 minutes of your day, we recommend at least checking out the first few minutes to get a taste of this great vintage video footage.