Rogers Media

Hischier and ‘casual athleticism’ could propel Switzerland to hockey greatness

Non-traditional hockey markets — think Denmark and Switzerland — are producing talents that could become legitimate franchise players — consider Nikolaj Ehlers and Nico Hischier — and their secret may be rather simple.

“The one market that has always surprised me and we’ve been wondering when this country was finally going to pop considering how much hockey has been played there for so long — is Switzerland,” said Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.

Talking with Perry Solkowski and Randip Janda on Sportsnet 650, Marek described the “casual athleticism” in Switzerland, the country that finally churned out its first No. 1 NHL draft pick in Hischier.

“It’s a very athletic country,” he said of Switzerland, “of course it’s a winter sports country. It is a country that has both a primary sports culture and a secondary athletic culture. We’re not driving to the store. Let’s ski there.”

In 2014, eight NHLers filled out the Swiss roster at the Sochi Olympic Games. Last season, before Hischier even put on the Devils jersey of his new team, 15 Swiss players were active in the NHL.

Switzerland, said Marek, “Is not just for elite level tennis players any more.”