Thursday night I found myself on a non-stop flight from Toronto to Zurich with the IIHF World Championship at the root of my insanity. The eight hour flight was surprisingly pleasant. I had stayed up all night the night before so that I could sleep the eight hours on the plane and wake up fully rested at 8AM Zurich time! Of course being the insomniac that I am, I decided to watch movies the whole way instead! I was a basket case for the rest of the day, and the worst part of that was that it was game day! Team Czech Republic was being picked up from the airport when I got there! They were cutting it a little close!
I discovered why everyone told me not to take cabs in Switzerland. A five minute cab ride will run you 30 Swiss-Francs! I arrived at my central Zurich hotel around 9AM and my room wasn’t ready! Central Zurich was really beautiful, but I felt uneasy being down there. I was too far from the action. I wanted to be where hockey was being played! So, I relocated to the airport district in Kloten where one of the tournament arenas was situated. The hotels over there were a lot cheaper, but A LOT nicer! However, this change to the game plan made it really tight for me to get to the rink in time for the 4:15PM puck drop!
The arena was hidden away inside a forested park. The path to the rink reminded me of all the unpleasant aspects of a day at the zoo (think Canadian Domain) or Ontario Place! It was a fairly long hike with no promise of thrill rides or exotic animals on the other side! And it was HOT! Worst of all everyone was smoking, AND you could smoke in the arena. Luckily, my section of the rink was the only non-smoking corner because you know how I feel about smokers!
To my horror, I learned before my departure that Arena Zurich-Kloten seated less than 7000 at full capacity! This made me feel even more insane as it felt like I had travelled 4000 miles for a bottom four OHL game! The game versus Belarus wasn’t all that exciting either. Canada came out on top in a lopsided 6-1 battle. It’s always more interesting when the opponent fights back, yes?
Another disappointment of the night was the lack of authentic Canadian fans. I made the trek to Switzerland because I was interested in the “international” aspects of hockey and the fans it attracts. I was convinced I would meet other true blue hockey fans that go the distance like I do, but the Canadians didn’t come. The rink was filled with Canadian fans, imposters in red and white hockey sweaters, but when you asked them where they were from, they weren’t from Canada, they were from Zurich! This was more than apparent, as the cheers rising up from the stands were in German, “KAN-A-DA!” I was curious to find out why they would root for a country that wasn’t their own. Of course, I understand why they would go to the game, I would too, but I wouldn’t put on another country’s jersey! The reasons varied from having relatives in Canada, to a friend who is Canadian, to supporting the country with the French heritage.
TSN tried to fool the public by shooting footage of the only small group of Canadians in attendance. And my feeling is that these individuals didn’t actually make the journey for the sole purpose of hockey; more like they were already in the country and decided to check out a game. I know this because they didn’t show up for the second game, and nobody, not even I would go that far for just ONE game! No, it seems I am once again in a league of my own, which makes me all the more concerned for my sanity.
By the time the third period rolled around I was ready to pass out. I found it hard to fight off sleep that morning. My cell didn’t work in Switzerland, so I was worried that if I put my fate in a wake-up call that I’d run the risk of missing the game. So, I forced myself to stay awake. I learned where to catch the bus from the arena (transportation was included in the game ticket apparently), and it stopped right in front of my hotel! I got into bed and watched A LOT of MTV, one of two channels with English programming! I rested my eyes around 8PM, and when I opened them again it was dawn.