The Islanders captain is back with his teammates.
Mark Streit returned to Long Island this week after spending the offseason in his hometown of Bern, Switzerland’s capital, working out and spending time with family and friends.
While Streit enjoys life on Long Island where he lives at least eight months out of the year, he cherishes the time he spends back home with his parents, sister and two nieces.
“In Bern I have the family around which makes it special and different, because nothing is like home,” Streit said. “As far as lifestyle, it’s nice to be home, eat Swiss food, be in my hometown, to go swim in the river and go to dinner with family.”
Streit added that Long Island and Bern have a lot in common, and his family visits whenever the schedule permits.
“The quality of life is high here too,” Streit said. “Here it’s green, it’s calm. You’ve got a lot of nature, green grass and woods, and I think that’s pretty similar to Switzerland. It’s great to be here and the restaurants on Long Island are unbelievable.”
Streit enjoys the time he gets to relax in Bern, taking up hobbies like golf, fishing, tennis and leisurely bike rides to the nearby River Aare. The 34-year-old defenseman may be one of the top sports stars in his native country, behind tennis superstar Roger Federer, but Streit says he doesn’t get harassed by paparazzi when he leaves his apartment.
“Bern is a hockey town,” Streit said. “It’s not that big, maybe 130-140,000 people, and a lot of them recognize me. But the Swiss people are really laid back. People say hi and talk for a little bit, but they don’t hassle you. I don’t think sports have the same status in society as they do in the US. People know me but they pretty much leave me alone.”
There are obviously some perks to being a big celebrity. Streit’s endorsement deals with Mercedes-Benz and Breitling provide added benefits, especially during the offseason.
“I just had to do one event for Mercedes-Benz this summer,” Streit said. “I didn’t have a car, and I got to drive a nice Mercedes for the summer. And Breitling is a great company and the events I get to go to in the summer are unbelievable. Usually there’s a big event where I get to fly in planes. Those things are unforgettable.”
Teammate and fellow Switzerland native Nino Niederreiter is familiar with Streit’s star power back home. Niederreiter is almost 15 years younger than the Islanders captain and grew up hearing stories about the man who played eight seasons in Switzerland’s top league before making it to the NHL in 2005 with Montreal.
“He’s definitely a big name in Switzerland,” Niederreiter said. “I’d say he’s one of the biggest names to ever come from Swiss hockey, and the sport is very well known in Switzerland, similar to football here. I remember on my first national team (in 2010), there were talks about Streiter, and how focused he is, his work ethic, and obviously that’s something that impressed every hockey player – the way he worked.”
When asked to compare Streit’s celebrity to Federer’s, Niederreiter says it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
“They just play different sports,” Niederreiter said. “Tennis is so big because of Roger Federer, but when it comes to hockey, Mark Streit is one of the biggest names you can find there.”
Streit, Niederreiter and several other Islanders players continue to skate this week at Islanders Iceworks. And while they enjoy summers back home, they hope a long playoff run in the Islanders future makes next summer’s vacation in Switzerland a short one.
RELATED STORIES: ISLANDERS PLAYERS HITTING THE ICE EARLY | NHL ARBITRATOR UPHOLDS VISNOVSKY TRADE TO ISLANDERS