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Flyers vs. Lausanne: What's the Same, What's Different

Here is a mini-primer for what to expect in today's international game

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

Over the course of the Flyers' history, the team has played eight games against non-NHL teams, excluding pre-season scrimmages pitting the Flyers against their American Hockey League affiliate club. Six of the eight games have involved European-based teams. The Flyers have posted a 2-3-1 record in those matches.

Monday's NHL Global Series exhibition game in Lausanne, Switzerland, against Swiss National League team Lausanne HC represents a couple of firsts in Flyers' history: the NHL team's first game outside North America and first meeting with a Swiss-based team. 

It also marks the Flyers first game against a non-NHL team since a 1-1 tie against Team USA at the Spectrum on Nov. 10, 1991, and first game against a European team since a 4-1 loss at the Spectrum to Dynamo Moscow on Jan. 10, 1991.

What will be the same as compared to a typical NHL preseason game? What will be different? Here is a mini-primer for what to expect. 

WHAT'S THE SAME

 

1. Familiar faces

The Swiss League is an import-heavy league and a prime destination for former NHL players continuing their career overseas. The Lausanne HC roster has numerous former NHLers. 

A former Minnesota Wild center/left winger, Cody Almond is in his first year with the team but sixth year in the Swiss league. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr know Almond from his time in Minnesota and the AHL's Iowa Wild. The Calgary born-and-raised forward represented Switzerland in the 2018 Olympics.

Former Detroit Red Wings center Cory Emmerton, now in his second season with Lausanne HC, is tied with Almond for the team scoring lead. He had six points through the first five National League games.

Other Lausanne HC players whose names may be familiar to NHL fans are former Minnesota Wild center/winger Christoph Bertschy (two goals, three points), former Tampa Bay Lightning winger Joel Vermin, former Pittsburgh Penguins winger Dustin Jeffrey (one goal, one assist), former St. Louis Blues defenseman Jonas Junlund, and journeyman former NHL forward Josh Jooris (one goal, three assists), who had stints with the Calgary Flames, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes,Carolina Hurricanes, and Pittsburgh.

 

2. Strong goaltending is paramount

Regardless of the league or the venue, strong goaltending is a major key to success. Goaltending has often been one of the biggest strengths of the Swiss national team.

The Lausanne HC goaltending duties are shared by former Dallas Stars goaltender Tobias Stephan and 26-year-old Luca Boltshauser. The Flyers have brought along Lehigh Valley Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon in addition to their two NHL netminders, Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.

 

3. Loyal fanbases

The Flyers, one of the six teams added during the NHL's 1967 expansion from six to 12 teams, have one of the world's most passionate fanbases. Even in Vaudoise Arena, there will be some Flyers partisans. 

The Lausanne HC franchise is one of the most historic in the Swiss League. The club was founded in 1922, and re-adopted its original (and current) name in 1949 when it first joined the Swiss National League. For 11 years in between (1938-1949), the team was called Montchoisi HC.

The club was chosen as the one to play the Flyers during the NHL Global Series because its home rink, Vaudoise Arena (named after its corporate sponsor, an insurance company), is a brand new 10,000 seat facility. For many years previously, the club played its home games at the CIG de Malley arena and then a temporary facility dubbed the 2.0 Malley. The Flyers held their weekend practices at the Malley.

 

WHAT'S DIFFERENT

 

1. Rink dimensions

Although Friday's regular season opener in Prague against the Chicago Blackhawks will be held at O2 Arena -- home of famous Czech Extraliga team HC Sparta Prague -- the boards will be temporarily configured to adjust the rink size to the NHL standard dimensions of 200 feet in length and 85 feet in width. 

Conversely, the game in Lausanne's Vaudoise Arena is slated to be played on the Swiss National League team's usual international dimensions surface of 197 feet by 98.4 feet in width.

Playing the game on the wider ice changes the style of play. Those who are unfamiliar with European leagues sometimes erroneously assume that matches are normally free-flowing, high-scoring affairs with the added skating room. More typically, the majority of games are defense-oriented and somewhat slower paced. 

The puck is often moved along the perimeter. This is is part of the reason why many European players are more inclined to pass the puck rather than shoot it. Puck possession and structure are the name of the game. 

 

2. Fan culture

North American and European hockey fans are equally passionate about the sport and supportive of their teams. However, European fans have assorted unique traditions -- many of which are borrowed from soccer -- that are not typical of arenas in North America.

Most notably, depending on the team, fans in Europe often sing and/or bang on drums. Flyers Hall of Fame left winger Brian Propp, who played in Switzerland during the 2004-05 lockout for HC Lugano. His center was legendary Russian forward Igor Larionov.

"The fans used to sing all game long, and they'd sing to Igor every time he stepped on the. To the tune of 'London Bridge is Falling Down,' they'd sing, 'I-i-i-gor Lar-i-o-nov, Lar-i-o-nov, Lar-i-o-nov. I-iii-gor Lar-i-nov, Igor Larionov!' It took some getting used to, but it was pretty neat." 

 

3. Uniforms and ads

Lasaunne HC is one of this season's participants in the IIHF-sanctioned Champions League, involving the four semifinalists from each of the primary domestic leagues across Europe. When playing in Champion's League, uniforms do not contain advertising from sponsors. 

In the domestic leagues, including the Swiss League. most teams place extensive advertising on the jerseys, and sometimes even the hockey pants, socks and/or helmets. The ice surface also has extensive ads, including in the faceoff circles.

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