Old school hockey in the Swiss Alps
Berne, Zurich, Basel, Geneva – the big cities of Switzerland are well-known beyond Europe’s borders and when you think of Swiss sports teams you would probably come up with ‘Grasshoppers’, ‘FC Basel’ or ‘Young Boys Bern’. In the far east of the country though lies the beautiful ‘Kanton’ (German for the member states of the Swiss Confederation) of ‘Graubünden’ (english ‘Grisons’). Not too many people will know that it is actually the biggest Swiss canton with stunning landscape far from the big city life. In fact, only just under 200,000 people live in Grisons and you have to travel far up the Swiss Alps to experience some great traditional ice hockey.
The ‘Rhätische Bahn’ (German for ‘Rhaetian Railway’) or ‘Viafier Retica’ in Romansh language – which is still used in the canton of Grisons – will take you all the way from the town of Chur up to beautiful Davos deep in the Alps. The journey itself with the picturesque ‘Glacier Express’, a train predominantly made for tourists, is already worth the trip with stunning views from train coaches. Davos itself offers lovely nature with its lakes, mountains and meadows and simply a great quality of life.
DAVOS SPORTS CENTRE. PHOTO © WIKIPEDIA
Located right in the centre of Davos is the hockey arena. Opened in 1979, the arena is known for its beautiful wooden roof which takes you back to the good old ice hockey in the days where the kids were just chasing the puck on frozen lakes rather than sitting at home playing hockey on the Playstation. The interior of the so-called ‘Vaillant-Arena’ does not disappoint either. It has been refurbished but it never loses its traditional vibe which makes it a very iconic ice hockey arena in Europe. With a capacity of 7,000 it is a compact venue and every seat is very close to the action which is sometimes lost a bit in those big modern arenas in the United States. It simply makes a difference when an arena is located right in the mountains rather than those soulless hockey venues of NHL franchises in California or Florida – settings that are simply far away from the good old hockey game played in winter countries such as Switzerland, Sweden or Canada. Although the attendance at Davos has dropped a bit of late, the club still plays in front of an average 5,000 supporters crowd which is not bad for a 7,000-seater venue. The Swiss National League usually starts in September and finishes around April with the playoff finals. During that time, Davos have plenty of home games and it is possible to enjoy a hockey game either in late summer, spring or more traditionally, in winter time.
DAVOS. PHOTO © DESTINATIONS DAVOS, SWISS-IMAGE.CH/STEFAN SCHLUMPF
Ice hockey in Switzerland has a long tradition and the local hockey team, HC Davos, won the Swiss championship 31 times. ‘HCD’, how the locals call their team, regularly challenges the bigger hockey cities in Switzerland such as the Zurich Lions or SC Berne in the Swiss National League. On top of that, the ‘Spengler-Cup’ is an invitational tournament that has been held in Davos since 1923 with giants like ‘Team Canada’ participating on a regular basis. The winter vibes in this town with the option to watch some old school ice hockey is a great incentive to pay this beautiful place a visit. And obligatory for sports fans and travellers, Davos offers a wide range of culinary highlights such as the classic cheese fondue, local breweries and international cuisine from France and Italy which makes Davos a relaxed Swiss location but its international vibes are undoubted. The town is known for the World Economic Forum which even brought world leaders up the Swiss Alps to visit and tackle global issues.
With the Winter Olympics coming up in 2018 – albeit taking place in South Korea – visiting a hockey match in Davos would be the ideal preparation to get in the mood for winter sports. And to get in even more holiday mood, you can spend hours pre- and post-match in one of those cosy Swiss cottages around the arena to enjoy local food, tasty beers or just a hot beverage to warm up. And for some education, it might be fun to pick up some Swiss German which is a pretty difficult dialect to learn – even for Germans. Hockey Club Davos might not be on everyone’s radar but it would be an unforgettable experience – not only for sports fans.
TEXT: DANIEL BARTHOLD | TOP PHOTO: DAVOS KLOSTERS.© SWISS-IMAGE.CH/DESTINATION DAVOS KLOSTERS
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