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Van Boxmeer, Schoenfeld renew acquaintances

by Dan Rosen

BERN, Switzerland -- As he sat in the press box watching the Rangers go through their paces Sunday afternoon, SC Bern coach John Van Boxmeer pointed toward the home bench, where he saw an old friend wearing a Rangers jump suit.

“There’s Schoeny,” Van Boxmeer said, his finger still waving toward the bench, “my old ‘D’ partner.”

Jim Schoenfeld, the Rangers’ assistant general manager, and Van Boxmeer were paired together for two-plus seasons in Buffalo from 1979-82 before the Sabres dealt Schoenfeld to Detroit. Van Boxmeer said he and Schoenfeld, who himself was working up a good sweat while skating with the team, also split the coaching duties for the Rochester Americans of the AHL in 1984-85.

Schoenfeld was hired to be the head coach and Van Boxmeer was supposed to be a player-assistant, but his knee was so bad that he couldn’t play more than two games. Injuries mounted in Buffalo as well, and Schoenfeld came out of retirement to play 34 games for the Sabres.

So, the two wound up splitting the season and the Americans went 40-27-13, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Schoenfeld became Buffalo’s head coach the following season and Van Boxmeer stayed on as the Americans head coach. Schoenfeld was replaced halfway through the season by Scotty Bowman and eventually wound up in New Jersey. Van Boxmeer coached the Americans for another five seasons before moving to Buffalo to become the associate coach.

“Him going back to play allowed me to be a head coach,” Van Boxmeer said laughing.

Don’t stray – As part of the blended IIHF-NHL rules for the two games here in Bern, there will be no trapezoid restricting the goalies playing the puck. But Rangers coach Tom Renney said it would probably be best if Henrik Lundqvist and Stephen Valiquette pretend the trapezoid is there.

“Probably, yeah,” Renney said. “It’s outside the rules of the game should he decide to go out there, at least in our League. We have to pay close attention to that.”

Lundqvist said Renney shouldn’t be worried. Since the international rink at PostFinance Arena is 15-feet wider than the NHL version, the corners are too far away for him to wander from his area.

“It’s harder now to skate into the corners because it’s wider, so I probably won’t go there anyway,” Lundqvist said. “I’ll probably just stay around the net.”

Added Renney: “Yeah, he’ll need a taxi to get back.”

Welcome back – Both Renney and Rangers forward Markus Naslund mentioned to that they have been to PostFinance Arena once before. Naslund played in a summer charity game here seven years ago and Renney played here with his junior team in 1974.

“It’s a lot different now,” said Naslund, who played in a game arranged by Andreas Johansson, a former NHLer from Sweden who played one season with SC Bern. “They’ve done a lot of renovations. It’s a lot bigger and a lot newer looking.”

Well, that much is obvious just by being around the arena. The arena is encased in ongoing construction both outside the building and inside. Van Boxmeer mentioned that they’re adding a practice rink, an outdoor rink, and a building that will house the SC Bern offices and the headquarters for PostFinance, a division of the Swiss postal office.

A representative from the IIHF confirmed that the construction should be finished by the spring, in time for the 2009 World Championships, which is hosted by both Bern and Zurich-Kloten.

Scouting the host – Van Boxmeer watched the Rangers practice Sunday afternoon, and Renney plans to reciprocate Monday morning by watching SC Bern’s workout prior to the Rangers scheduled noon practice. Neither Van Boxmeer nor Renney are watching with a scout’s eye.

“When you play these types of games in venues like this, there are so many neat things to pick up on as a coach,” Renney said. “It could be a twist to a drill or a tactic you may have forgotten about before. We steal from each other all the time, and that’s what it should be. It’s all part of the fraternity.”

Pretty drive – The Rangers who didn’t sleep during the hour-long bus ride from the Basel-Mulhouse Freiberg Airport to Bern got to look out at the beautiful countryside, complete with breathtaking mountains.

Wade Redden said Switzerland is everything he had imagined it would be.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Redden said. “I didn’t know if we would be driving that long of a way, but I know Switzerland is a beautiful place with the mountains. I played with Martin Gerber last year and he used to say how beautiful it is. It really is a beautiful country.”

Naslund said the last time he was here – for that charity game arranged by Johansson – he swam in the River Aare.

“We kind of floated down it,” Naslund said. “It was pretty cool.”

So is Bern’s weather now, so Naslund better stay on the ice during this trip.

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