A dream opportunity for Niederreiter

PARISNino Niederreiter was thrilled to sign a two-year contract with the Nashville Predators on July 21. He was even more so when he realized that it would give him the chance to play in his native country of Switzerland.

The Predators will face SC Bern of the Swiss National League in a preseason game at PostFinance Arena in Bern on Oct. 3 as part of the 2022 NHL Global Series. The San Jose Sharks will play an exhibition game against the Berlin Eisbären of the German Hockey League at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on October 4. The Predators and Sharks will next face off to kick off 2022-23 NHL regular season activities at the O2 Arena in Prague on October 7-8.

« I was thinking about a lot of things at the same time, » Niederreiter said during the European NHL Players’ Media Tour last week. « Then I remembered, ‘Oh, that’s right, they’re going to play in Bern.’ It was the icing on the cake. »

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The game in Bern has become a frequent topic of conversation this summer between Niederreiter, a native of Chur in Switzerland, and his new teammate Roman Josiwho hails from Bern and played four seasons for SC Bern before moving to North America in 2010 – he then played for American Hockey League Predators academy in Milwaukee.

« We talked about it a lot, » Niederreiter said. It will obviously be very stressful for him because it is his city. I live about four hours away, but many of my relatives will be driving to watch the game. That’s exciting. I’ve never had the chance to start my season with a match in Europe, so it’s ‘cool’. »

Sharks striker Timo Meier admitted he was a bit jealous of his fellow Swiss, but was very much looking forward to playing in Germany and Prague.

« It’s really exciting, » Meier said. There will also be several of my relatives who will come to see the game, so the excitement is at its height for my friends and my family. They all want to come to Prague to see me play. I have never been to these two cities so I hope to have the opportunity to discover them and explore a little. But it’s really exciting to be in the same time zone as my friends and family. I can not wait to be there. »

Meier, who hails from Herisau, will be lucky enough to have more than 20 friends and family in the stands for games in Prague, but had the Sharks played in Bern, « a whole section would have been reserved for his supporters,” the striker said. Some of those who will be in Prague haven’t seen him play since 2013, when he left Switzerland for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the age of 16.

« It’s really exciting for them, » Meier said.

It will be similar for Niederreiter, for whom around 30 relatives intend to attend the match in Bern. That includes his grandmothers, who never got to see him play an NHL game in person.

« It’s something really special, » said Niederreiter, who played 11 NHL seasons with the New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes. “They are both over 80 years old and one of them has never left the country. For her, going to Bern is a very big outing. »

Video: CAR@NYR, #3: Niederreiter cuts the deficit

The Global Series, which also includes two matchups between the Colorado Avalanche and the Columbus Blue Jackets in Tempere, Finland on November 4-5, will feature games outside of North America for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic. Niederreiter and Meier see these games as an opportunity for the NHL to sell its product to those who don’t normally have the chance to attend these high-calibre games in person.

« It’s going to be great to bring the NHL closer to Switzerland and have a game there, while we’re also in Berlin and Prague, » Meier said. I think it will be a great way to promote it and possibly inspire some young people to dream of becoming NHL players in the near future. »

Swiss players are having a growing impact in the NHL.

Josi, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2019-20, was a finalist for the same award and a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Trophy, awarded to the League’s best player according to his peers, last season after posting personal highs of 96 points and 23 goals in 80 games.

the attacker Kevin Fiala set career highs in goals (33), assists (52) and points (85) in 82 games with the Wild last season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on June 29 and signed a seven-year contract with his new team. the attacker Nico Hischier also had his best season (60 points; 21 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games in his second season as captain of the New Jersey Devils.

Meier led the Sharks with career-high 35 goals and 76 points in 77 games last season. Niederreiter’s 24 goals and 44 points in 75 games with the Hurricanes marked his best stats since his 2016-17 season with the Wild (25 goals and 57 points).

Video: SJS@VGK: Meier makes it 4-4 with 0.3 seconds left

This has not gone unnoticed in their countries.

« I feel like a lot of people in North America don’t realize how well known the NHL is in Europe, especially in Switzerland, » Niederreiter said. People there follow the news a lot, on a constant basis. […] hockey news [de la LNH] are shared in the media and they are gaining momentum. I also think the NHL has made it easier to watch games online now with the app and everything. »

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