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11-03-2008, 09:34 AM
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BrooklynRangersFan
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OT: Saw SC Bern play over the weekend

I was in Switzerland for business last weekend and got an invite to attend a game between the Bern Bears (who hosted the Rangers in the preseason) and their inter-canton rivals, the Langnau Tigers. They're in the middle of a CHF 100MM renovation and the arena already looks pretty spectacular.

I got to sit in the season ticket holder seats, which are great: you sit in a row of regular stadium seating (although a bit more comfortable than the Garden's) during the action - but before the game, between periods and after the game you go back into an awesome lounge/bar area with plenty of comfy seating, good food, drinks, etc. Everyone mixes around saying hi to other season ticket holders, standing at the bar, sitting at the restaurant, etc. It seems like it's a real event in Bern and "everyone who's everyone" is there. At one point, the owner came by and shook hands with the season ticketholder who was my host. (Apparently they also have corporate boxes on the next level up, which are more like the boxes at the Garden, but I didn't see those.) There are also multiple restaurants where people have dinner before and after the game.

Across from the corporate seats is the section they call "the Wall" - where something like 5,000 fans stand (that's right, it's standing room only) throughout the whole game - they beat drums, sing organized chants, etc. Before the game, they have this ritual where they unfurl a HUGE banner with the team logo and pass it up the stands until it covers the whole section. When the team scores, the announcer only says the first name of the player and the crowd responds with the last name.

The game itself was fun. Bern absolutey dominated - it was like an NHL team playing an AHL team. Bern was able to gain the zone at will and most of their goals were scored on very pretty give-and-go plays or goal mouth passes. And they did this without their best player (one Christian Dube) in the lineup due to injury. Of course, they gave up a couple of AWFUL goals late to make it close (worse even than the goals the Rangers gave up on Saturday), including one where the goalie tried to take a shot at the empty net and instead put it right on the tape of a forward standing 30 feet in front of a wide open net. Fortunately for Bern, they were up 5-1 and managed to hold on for a 5-3 win.

Other names I recognized included Philippe Furrer for Bern and, believe it or not, Jeff Toms for Langnau. The people I was with also pointed out an 18 year old kid for Bern, Roman Josi, who is an offensive defenseman who is apparently being scouted heavily for the upcoming NHL draft. He scored a very nice goal coming in from the point to take a pass and roof it while the goaltender tried to come across the crease to take away the shot. He did have one or two problems at keeping the puck in at the point, but to be fair, it was bouncing a bit.

To sum up - a great time. I highly recommend the Swiss League and SC Bern in particular.

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