9:10 pm, October 2nd, 2008
As I get my luggage repacked for my morning flight out of Switzerland, I figured I would throw out some last thoughts on the experience, international hockey and the Rangers:
*It doesn't matter that it was an exhibition game, a four-goal comeback is a four-goal comeback. The Rangers need to keep this game in mind over the grind of season and remember never to say die. Times will get tough - they always do - but they did it in a foreign land against a foreign team playing like in the biggest game of their lives and in front of an international audience.
*After the Rangers went down 2-0, some Metallurg fans started singing and I yelled down at them "We won in Rocky IV, we'll win here!" Someone, not the Russians, called me something in German that I am sure was unsavory but let's face it, I was proved scarily right ...
*If Hank has a bad day, this team is doomed. The team only recovered when he found his game. It has pretty much been a fact since the lockout, but sooner or later you would think the powers that be would do something about it? Do they really think Wade Redden is that something?
*NHL fans, for the most part, know the game better than their international counterparts but we could and should take a page out of their books in terms of getting into the game and creating a loud, powerful and fun atmosphere to back our team. I'm not saying we need to add a drum section or wave massive flags, but chanting something other than "Potvin Sucks" every five minutes would be great.
*With the lockout as the exception, players head to the Swiss league when they want to play under no pressure with little physicality. The large ice is awesome, but these guys appear unable to take full advantage of it, playing a small, slow game. They get away with it because this style is all the fans here really know - much like the fans I met in Basingstoke, England. They were just happy to be out of the house for the night and they don't really follow the sport outside of their home building or league.
*I mentioned the larger ice, which really does have an impact. The players association should flex their muscles to force the owners to blow out some of the expensive rows of each rink to move to the Olympic-sized surface. The skills really can come out when there is more room to play with.
*The Russians were far above the Swiss in terms of talent, but don't for one second think they were NHL caliber. They played their best game against an unsteady Rangers squad that has yet to find their form. If you need to find a basis of comparison for the Russians, think the old IHL back when it was at the height of its talent - better than the A, but certainly not as good as the NHL.
*Bern is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here. Maybe it is because everyone primarily speaks German (and I don't), maybe it is because this 'city' has one main strip, I wouldn't really want to be here for an expended amount of time. Unless I get assigned to cover the IIHF World Championships here in April, I don't think I will come back. I saw most of the sights (missing only the Bear Pits), they were pretty, I'm good.
And on that note, I'm just about out of here. I am going to try to make it to that beer garden on Saturday to watch the season opener from Prague so I hope to see you there!