A weekend in Switzerland watching Nash and Thornton...
I'm a Kings die hard fan and I live in Milano, Italy...last weekend I decided to make a "short" trip to Switzerland to watch a hockey game. At the end the trip wasn't so easy as I expected, but my wife and I had a good time on the Alps...I already posted my story on a Kings board I moderate, today I became a HF member too and I thought it would have been a good idea to post it here too...
I warn you..it's a damn long post...
Iím married from almost 3 months and Iím gettino used to all the new things I have to do in my new life, I like to help my wife doing houseworks because she also works 8-9 hours a day during the week, and she canít do everything alone. So Saturday morning I donít sleep anymore until 1 oíclock in the afternoon, as I was used to do before being married. Waking up with a terribile headache, a plastic mouth and a velvet tongue, presents of nights spent drinking around with my friends downtown Milan are a distant memory. Now I have to wake up at a decent time because thereís always something to do, and now I donít have mummy anymore behind my butt doing everything I ask for. Usually I wake up around 9:30-10:00, which itís dawn compared to my "previous" life, but itís still ok compared to my waking time when I go to work: 6:20 in the morning, from Monday to Friday (I work downtown Milan but I live 25 miles from my office and itís a neverending traffic jam to get there. Iíve been in LA and I bet you know what the word "neverending traffic jam" exactly means).
By the way, last Saturday I could not sleep because I had to wake up at 7:30 because a carpenter had to fix a couple of doors. So I let my wife sleep and I woke up to check if he was doing a good job. While I was watching him working, we talked a little bit. Heís a friend of my father and he knows my family has a small cottage on the Alps, so he asked "Why donít you go there for the weekend? Itís a beautiful sunny day". I answered that we were way too busy with the new house to go there. We went on talking about stupid things and after a few minutes, he said once again "Being you, Iíd make a trip to the Alps". And this time, in my mind, something happened. You know when all of a sudden you have a (good) idea? That you really have the feeling that a light goes on in your brain? I told him "Iíll be back in a few minutes", I walked downstairs and I run to the computer, which was on because Iíve already checked the monarchs website to know if the Narchs kept their winning streak alive. I surfed the net and I checked a few swiss teams websites to take a look at the weekend games. There are a couple teams just behind the borderline between Italy and Switzerland (Lugano and Ambrž), but unfortunately both played on the road Saturday night. So I told myself.: "You'll just have to drive a bit longer". I noticed that one of the teams I mentioned before, HC Ambrž Piotta, which itís also my favorite Swiss team, would have played in the evening at Davos, where Joe Thornton, Ric Nash and Nicklas Hagman are spending their european exile. Davos is a wonderful small city built 1,500 meters over the sea level, in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. I thought between me and me "Itís not behind the corner, but itís a nice place...I hope itís enough to bring my wife with me". So I walked to the bed room where she was just awake and I told her, before even saying goodmorning: "Honey, what do you think about going to Switzerland this evening?" With just one eye opened, she answered: "Next idea, please". Obviously I spent the next 10 minutes speaking about how amazing Davos was, that it was a beautiful sunny day, etc etc...basically a load of BS and at the end I won my battle: we were headed for Davos. Half an hour later the carpenter was gone, so I went back to my computer to check the route to Davos, and using the michelin website I discovered that the distance was about 330 km (206 miles), 200 in the middle of the mountains.
I left some food for my ferret, we took our Swiss road map, we packed our suitcase with some heavy clothes and we left, around 12 oíclock.
The last time I had the chance to watch a hockey game featuring NHL players, was last December in LA, when the Kings beat the Stars 3-zip the night Martin Straka made his Staples Center debut. I wasnít going to LA, and I wasnít going to watch the Kings, but Thornton and Nash were enough for a starved hockey fan like me. The first part of the trip, about 150 km, were ok. We stopped for about one hour to eat a sandwich and I could stay outside without my jacket. The weather was very nice, and we were surrounded by the warm colours of the fall: red, yellow, different shades of brown. It was just like driving through a beautiful painting, and we really enjoyed it...until we arrived at the San Bernardino pass, which is more than 2,000 meters over the sea level. The pass is a tunnel 8 km long: we went in with 4 C and the sun, and when we came out on the other side of the mountain, it was cloudy, snowing and the temperature magically dropped to a "fresher" -7 C. Luckily the street was ok, I guessed the snow has just been removed, and I went on driving (I say luckily because I bought my car a few weeks ago and I still have no chains for the snow) without any problems for the next 140 km. Around 5 oíclock, we were about 20 km away from Davos, and I was already thinking about buying the tickets at the Arena, watching Thornton skating, Nash shooting...waaaay too early. All of a sudden it started to snow very hard and, considerind it was also quickly getting darker, driving wasnít funny anymore. I realized the street was covered of ice and I decided to slow down, but it didnít work a lot. Even though I was driving at a ridiculous speed (15-20 km/h), the car was sliding everywhere, I felt just like I was playing "Colin McRae Rally" on my PS2. With the slight difference that I was not in a videogame and that it was the first time I was driving on that road. The only thing I could do was to keep driving, because things were only getting worst as the snow kept falling down. I needed 50 minutes to make the final 10 km, but at the end we made it. Cosidering Davos is one of the richest city of Switzerland (which is one of the richest country of the world...) I expected to find decent roads there. Too bad I was expecting too much, as the roads downtown were even worst. I realized in a few minutes that our best option was to park our exhausted car somewhere and walking around looking for a hotel. I had to thank my wife for her enormous patience: after 6 hours in the car, we had to walk under a waterfall of snow, with a temperature of -13 C, and she didnít complained at all. The first hotel we saw, we said to each other "For Christís sake, we stop HERE", and we took a room. We asked if the Arena was too far, and the girl at the reception told us it was about 10-15 minutes by feet from the hotel. We took a fast shower, we wore a couple sweaters each under the jackets, and in 20 minutes we were back under the snow. All the shops were already closed, but the lights in the windows were on, so we could notice that in most of the stores there was plenty of hockey: stuff, pins, tees, hats. After a bit more than 10 minutes, we finally spotted the Arena. A nice building, all made of wood, with big windows, surrounded by a couple skating rinks and a sport center.
On the way to the entrance, I stopped by the fan shop, to look for some souvenirs. I bought a very nice HCDavos baseball hat with "Thornton" sewed on it, and a warm scarf with written all over it "Joe Thornton, welcome to Davos". Same items were available with Nashíname on them. 90% of the fans were wearing Davos jerseys with the 2 stars names on the backs, you can guess people there is really enjoing an extraordinary hockey season, having the chance to watch NHL stars every week. Finally we bought our tickets (30 $ each) and we went in. The Arena was warm, at least compared to the outside, and the players were already on the ice. We walked to our seats, behind the net, 3rd row from the ice, a pretty good place to watch a hockey game.
This was our stand
The building was pretty crowded, and in the stand on our right there was a big group (about 3-400 people) of Ambrž fans, who followed their team on the road. They kept singing all the time, trying to make their team feel at home. In the stand in front of us, on the other side of the arena, there were the Davos hottest fans, who spent the game banging on drums, waving huge flags and banners and, of course, singing. The atmposphere was a bit electric because it was a clash between two teams that shared the 2nd place in the standings, 3 points behing idle HC Lugano.
Ambrž put on the ice a very solid 1st line with former NHLer Jeff Toms, Hnat Domenichelli and AHL top scorer Jean Guy Trudel, with Flyers Kim Johnsson leading the D. Watching Johnsson skating and bringing the puck up ice is really a show in the show. On the other hand Davos, took the ice with a much more balanced offense, with Thornton on a line with former NHLers Michael Riesen (Edmonton) and Joseph Marha (Anaheim and Chicago), while Nash skated on a unit with Reto Von Arx (former Blackhawk) and Hagman.
From the opening face off, Ambrž put pressure on Davos goalie Jonas Hiller, who made a couple of difficult saves in the first 30 seconds to preserve the scoreless tie. After just 1 minute of play, Nash has been the protagonist of a vicious check from behind, sending an Ambrž player to the hospital with a suspect concussion (surprisingly no penalty was called on the play). At the 5 minute mark, Ambrž enjoyed the 1st power play of the game, but Josef Marha took advantage of a bad line change to score a shortie on a breakaway. The game changed completely and, when the penalty expired, Davos scored other 2 quick goals, with Ambuhl and Nash. The period ended 3-0 in favour of the home team, and Ambrž never recovered. The final score was Davos 5 - Ambrž 2.
Boxscore 1st period
5.56 Marha (Hagman) - SH - 1:0
10.21 AmbŁhl (Nash, Reto von Arx) - PP - 2:0
10.33 Nash (Reto von Arx) 3:0
48Ē Trudel (Johnsson, Domenichelli) 3:1
2.51 Hagman (Reto von Arx, Nash) 4:1
The game was played in a typical swiss style. In little words, if a player wants to play like in the NHL, heís going to spend half of the match in the sin bin. By example, a player whoís putting pressure on the opposite team puck carrier, almost always doesnít finish his check, he just avoids to make contact after the other player have passed the puck. I kept a close eye on Thornton and he played a good game, but he wasnít a physical force. AT ALL. He made some crisp passes and on the powerplay he played the point, he was very poised, but not physical. On the other hand, Nash was all over the place, forechecking and throwing hits around the boards. He scored a finesse goal, assisted on another tally, almost was involved in a fight. He crossed the line with his 1st minute hit from behind, but he was arguably the most entertaining player to watch. The most impressive thing for a guy of his size (Thornton is smaller than this kid) is his skating ability. Man, he can really fly on his skatesÖadd to this, his soft hands, his size, his mean streak and youíll get a NHL superstar in the making. As said before, Kim Johnsson is really a great defenseman and a joy to watch.
After the game we walked again under the snow for 15 minutes, then we finally went to sleep. Sunday we went back to Italy, and though it was sunny, the street was still a disaster. It took 2 hours to make the first 20 km, there was ice and snow everywhere. Thank God I was able to keep my car on track and 5 hours later we were finally home. Though these difficulties, it has been a hell of weekend. Iíll make the next trip to Switzerland on December 7th, when weíll travel to Lugano to watch the home team (with Aebischer in net) against HC Lausanne, Martin St.Louis new team. About St.Louis, Saturday he played his first game in the Swiss League, and his team lost (he was held scoreless).
I took about 20 shots at the game, but I donít know how to post my pics, if anybody has some advice Iíll be happy to share them with you.
NB: you can bet Iíll buy chains for my tires this week