Blueliner Hockey Tour 2015/16: Geneva
Geneva is somewhat of a forgotten city in Europe. In fact so is much of Switzerland. That though should and is changing. Located within touching distance of the Alps on the shores of the largest lake in mainland Europe and on the french border Geneva is stunning city with a stunning back drop.
Famous for its water fountain which shoots water the highest in the world and its watch history Geneva is a city with historic past and it mixes its French, English and Italian influences across its architecture, lay out and shops. Geneva is in the smaller French speaking part of Switzerland and french NOT German is dominate. If it was not for the Swiss flags and merchandise everywhere you could mistake this for France.
There is one other thing that sets Geneva apart from France and that is ice hockey. Members of the NLA the swiss top flight Geneve – Servette are one of two teams in that league from the french speaking area of Switzerland and the fans are furiously proud of it. The biggest rivals of the eagles is the other french speaking side of HC Lausanne and less so the big teams of the NLA in SC Bern and ZSC Lions from Zurich.
The NLA is somewhat contra to other European leagues in that it does take in a lot of North Americans but there is a mix of local talent. Geneve Servette are fortunate in many ways that their home the Patinoire des Vernets is at the Centre Sportif des Vernets and features a second semi out door rink on which their junior outfits can play.
The main rink at the Patinoire des Vernets is not the most modern having opened in 1958 but the club have done a lot of work to modernise the rink. It now features two balcony sections behind both goals and a large hospitality section behind the benches. Add to that HD video scoreboard and the rink suddenly feels modern but with the character of the older rinks.
With a capacity of 7,285 its not a big capacity and this can hamper sides especially when rivals such as SC Bern have a capacity of over 15,000 but the management of done a good job in selling the entertainment including with their bald eagle mascot Sherkan and the corporate edge.
A night at the hockey is quite special in Geneva before the game there are not many places to eat or grab drink. There are bars and cafes around 5 – 10 minute walk away but many do not serve food until 7pm. At the rink head coach Chris McSorley does have a small bar and restaurant but this too is busy. There are though street vendors outside selling burgers, sausages and beers. Inside there is only a small concourse but with doors opening 90 minutes before the game there is plenty of time to get in buy your scarf and find a place to sit or stand.
Away from hockey Geneva is wonderful place to visit. With free travel for those arriving by plane and also those staying in hotels in the city it is very accessible whether you take a boat trip on the lake, a museum tour at one of the hundreds on offer or just wonder the old town with its mix of bars, cafes, chocolatiers and high end boutiques.
Best of all though Geneva is on your doorstep from most places in Europe. That is if you can past auto bag drops at the airport being stuck in the auto scanner for your new automatic passport. Thank you very much Easyjet and Manchester Airport.