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Global Series

Hischier gives fans night to remember in Switzerland

Devils center thrills crowd playing preseason game in home country

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BERN, Switzerland -- Nico Hischier provided another magical moment in what has become a routine occurrence in his brief time with the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game against SC Bern during the 2018 Global Series at PostFinance Arena on Monday.

On the night the Switzerland-born center returned to his home country, Hischier received an ovation from a fan base that isn't normally so gracious to opposing players.

It was different this time, however, since Hischier not only has become one of the most recognizable names in the history of hockey in Switzerland, but also played 15 games for Bern in the National League in 2015-16 prior to joining Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the following season.

The 19-year-old was selected No. 1 in the 2017 NHL Draft, the only Switzerland-born player be chosen No. 1. He had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games during his rookie season.

"He's obviously the new face of Swiss hockey," said Switzerland-born, Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller, who also received a pregame ovation. "I think you heard it last year and now even more since people knew him already. At least fans who hadn't seen him got to know who he is; he's a local boy who they really enjoy watching play. He's a great kid, really modest, and there's really nothing bad to say about him so I think that ovation was well-deserved."

The most memorable moment of the evening occurred during the lineup announcements. As the final player announced, the arena's public address announcer said "Center, 13, Nico ... " and most of the 17,031 in attendance responded "Hischier."

"I think North American players aren't really used to this where players are introduced like that but it's like this, and it was a great welcome," Hischier said. "I got goosebumps everywhere."

The Bern fans kept the energy and enthusiasm going throughout the entire game, cheering for their team but also on the edge of their seats whenever Hischier picked up a loose puck and turned it the other way. Hischier had a few good opportunities to score during the 3-2 overtime win.

"I had my chances but it didn't go in now," he said. "I hope it'll start when the regular season begins."

The Devils will open the regular season against the Edmonton Oilers at Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, MSG+, NHL.TV).

Bern coach Kari Jalonen was happy to see Hischier receiving so much support.

"I liked it a lot," he said. "Nico practices with us in the summer before he goes to training camp with the Devils, so he's always been important to our team. The fans love to see their Nico. I don't know if he's ever going to play in this rink anymore, so that was a special night for Nico and the fans."

Andrew Ebbett, 35, was in his first season with Bern when Hischier made his debut for the team in the National League, Switzerland's top division. 

"I never saw a team have more injured players than when I was in my first year here; we had eight or nine guys out," Ebbett said. "All of a sudden, this 16-year-old kid is suiting up for us and holding his own on the ice and playing pretty well. You could see he was determining whether or not to return to Switzerland or play major junior with Halifax. 

"The difference in the player before he went to Halifax and when he came back has really been night and day."

Devils coach John Hynes said the experience against a good opponent was a great test for his team.

"It was really special for Nico," Hynes said. "You could see the emotion on his face when they chanted his name in the introductions and it was a fantastic experience for our team. They have great fans here and the turnout they had and the way they rooted for Nico, Mirco, and also their own team was great."

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