BROSSARD – The fresh mountain air wasn’t the only thing drawing Raphael Diaz back home to Switzerland this summer.
When the 26-year-old blue-liner answered his country’s call after the season ended, it had nothing to do with the World Championships.
“In Switzerland, you have to do your compulsory military service when you turn 18. It starts with five weeks of traditional training – like a boot camp,” explained Diaz during a trip to Montreal to sign his new contract and take part in the Canadiens Hockey School. “After that, I have to do 13 more weeks of training in this special camp for athletes over the next few years until I turn 30.”
Athletes converge on the elite camp covertly located in the Swiss mountains to train and share trade secrets with one another.
“You go there and train. The facilities are unbelievable and you’re right there in the mountains. There’s a synthetic ice rink, bikes, weight rooms, badminton courts…everything,” explained the Baar, Switzerland native. “We’re with other Swiss hockey players but there are skiiers, bobsledders, and everyone else there, too. You get to see how other athletes train and prepare for their sports.”
In addition to his time at Swiss summer camp, Diaz also managed to squeeze in a quick sightseeing tour of his father’s homeland this summer.
“I was in Spain for 12 days. I visited my family in Corunna, which is in the northwest region near Portugal. And I took some time off to rest,” mentioned Diaz, who particularly enjoyed Spain’s culinary scene during his trip. “The food there was amazing: tapas, paella, tortillas. I love to visit my dad’s family at least once a year.”
Other than his two-week adventure to the Old Country, Diaz has spent the majority of his summer on the ice with his former EV-Zug teammates getting ready for his return to la Belle Province.
“I won’t be starting from scratch when I come back [to Montreal] next year. I know the arena, I know the guys and I know how things work here. Last year there were so many new things that my brain was overloaded,” shared Diaz, who signed a two-year deal with the Habs on July 13. “You get to the Bell Centre and it takes you a minute to really soak it all in and realize what you’re living. Next year I’ll know what to expect. And I know things will be better, that’s for sure. That said, I know I’ll still be learning new things every day.”
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
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