Zug, Switzerland is a small European town about 20 miles from Zurich. Such a small town shouldn’t boast such a big hockey market with a population of under 30,000 people, right?
Apparently, the hockey team, EV Zug, is the main sport in this small fishing town. With the brand new Bossard Arena (only two years old) housing 7,015 fans per game, the arena is jam packed for every game.
At both ends of the ice, you will not find seats. You’ll find standing room only in those sections. While back in North America, standing room only tickets may sound outrageous, apparently this is how the Swiss like to enjoy their hockey…just like they are at a European football match (aka soccer).
The fans have their own chants, flags and drums, including a ringleader with a megaphone to orchestrate each cheer and chant throughout the game. These fans are completely organized… and their cheers are deafening. They bring Canadian fans to shame with their love for hockey. Zug loves their hockey even more.
“It’s a lot of fun to play in front of some of these European crowds,” Ryan Callahan said. “It’s a lot different than the States. We definitely enjoyed it.”
Many fans in Zug are Rangers fans. They wear Rangers jerseys throughout the year. It may have a little something to do with Jussi Markkanen, a former Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger goaltender.
Other former NHL/AHL players on Zug’s roster include Josh Holden and Glen Metropolit. Former Zug players that fans may have heard of include Claude Lemieux and Mike Fisher.
Zug isn’t just some European hockey club that boast of players not good enough or NHL worthy. They are actually an amazing team to watch. After all, EV Zug embarrassed the New York Rangers in an 8-4 victory on Monday night.
Sure, you can blame the European ice or the Rangers’ insane schedule. It all leads to the same thing, this Swiss hockey team earned their win. They played harder. They skated faster. They brought their A+ game against the Rangers.
“We always knew it was good,” Callahan said of Swiss hockey. “I had a chance to go over here and play three years ago with the Rangers. Coming into tonight, we always knew it was going to be a good team. They’re fast and they know how to use this big ice. The way they stretched us out, unfortunately they beat us.”
The Rangers had a tough time getting used to the ice and the game itself. They just weren’t in it from the moment the puck dropped.
With a small scrap behind the net in the first period between Brandon Dubinsky and a Zug player, Dubinsky was called for roughing and slashing at 0:55 into the game. Zug capitalized on the man advantage at 1:18 from Esa Pirnes.
Zug Captain Duri Camichel’s shot on goal at 5:32 was caught in Martin Biron’s glove hand, but when he dropped the puck, it rolled over the goal line to give Zug the 2 goal lead.
“I never could feel comfortable out there,” Biron said of his game. “It’s one of those nights. I could not get adjusted to the big ice and the way they kept coming and moving the puck from side to side, I never really felt comfortable and it showed out there.”
The Rangers were able to cut the lead in half at 15:40 with some great teamwork between Callahan and Dubinsky.
With Timo Helbling in the penalty box for interference at 16:14, the Rangers ended up getting a goal against from Josh Holden at 16:24.
The Rangers then played a little catch-up late in the first with a goal from Mike Rupp at 18:47 followed by Artem Anisimov at 19:00, tying up the game, 3-3 at the end of the first period. The Rangers outshot Zug 17-8.
In the middle period, Metropolit gave Zug their fourth goal at 14:02, followed by another from Holden at 14:43. Fedotenko would help urge the Rangers closer at 18:48, but it would end up being the final goal of the night for his team.
At 2:43 in the final period, Pirnes scored the sixth goal for Zug, followed by Damien Brunner at 4:01. Biron was finally pulled to give the Rangers an extra attacker with a little under five minutes remaining in the game, but it was no use as Fabian Schnyder netted the eighth goal against the Rangers at 15:55, giving EV Zug an 8-4 victory over the New York Rangers.
“It’s a totally different game,” Callahan said after the game. “You can see that on the forecheck, and you try to get their D[efense] in the opposite zone. There’s so much room out there. It’s something to get used to, but I think we’re going to have a couple days of practice to recover and it shouldn’t be an issue going into another season.”
“They’re a good team,” he said. “It’s a fast team. They came out hard at us. They got some goals early. We came back. We got back down and they came right at us again. It’s a good team out there. I give them all the credit.”
There are a lot of things that the Rangers can point to that went wrong. From a busy schedule, to the European ice, to being in four countries in the last five days, they could say that all of these things factored into their loss. But the fact remains, they do believe that EV Zug is really that good.
“We’re used to playing the grind,” Biron said of the schedule. “It’s just the way it happened. With the schedule, we know in advance what it’s going to be. It’s still training camp so not everybody played all poor games…I personally could not feel comfortable. I think that was what happened.”
“Even in Prague, even though it was a 2-0 shutout…they had a big ice out there. I wasn’t real sure where I was in the net. It’s a big adjustment for a goalie.”
“They skate really well,” Biron said of EV Zug. “They move the puck really well. They play really well together. They know what our disadvantages are of playing on this ice surface. They know how to react to certain situations and they did that.”
The Rangers continue on to Stockholm to begin practicing for their first regular season game where they’ll meet both the L.A. Kings and the Anaheim Ducks.