Did the Vancouver Canucks make a mistake by not offering Jeff Tambellini a contract for the new season? If his stats for the first two games of the season in Zurich are anything to go by, they may well have. Tambellini has started the 2011/12 season with 3 goals and 2 assists for a league leading 5 points, 2 more than any other NLA player.
Playing as a top line winger, Tambellini looks to have settled in to the European game perfectly, his speed and powerful wrist shot much-needed additions for a Zurich team which has struggled to keep up with NLA champions HC Davos and runners-up Kloten Flyers in the last few years. Zurich can thank Jeff’s father Steve Tambellini for enticing their new star acquisition to play in Switzerland as Steve played for ZSC early in his career and is reported to have enjoyed his time there. Jeff’s grandfather Addie also spent time playing in the financial capital.
Tambellini, who was voted as the 4th most important acquisition in Swiss Hockey for 2011/2012 by Swiss Pay-TV subscriber Teleclub, is not the only Canadian born skater on the Zurich team, with fellow Albertan Domenico Pittis and Ontario natives Blaine Down and Cory Murphy all important players for the Lions.
All eyes were also on Rob Niedermayer, as he hit Swiss ice for the first time for in Lugano. As expected the ex-1300 game NHL player was named on the 1st line and was a commanding presence all over the ice. Niedermayer did not register a point in the first two games played by the Ticino club however, as he continues the process of adapting to the new style of game.
While Owen Nolan and Richard Park have headed back to North America from Switzerland, other former NHL players are making their presence felt in the NLA with Jeff Tambellini (Los Angeles, New York Is, Vancouver) Petr Sykora (Detroit, Nashville and Washington), Kurtis McLean (New York Is), Brandon Reid (Vancouver) and Tony Salmelainen (Edmonton, Chicago) all representing in the top 12 scoring list.
As the talent pool grows in Swiss Hockey, ex-NHL players such as Jeff Tambellini can look at Switzerland as more than just a place to end their careers and more of a way to prove to the world that they can play hockey at an elite level. With the amount of ex-NHL players in the NLA and the third largest average hockey attendances in the world, after the NHL and College Hockey, Swiss Hockey may be seen as a better option for players such as Nolan Baumgartner and Mark Flood who are considered by many to be career AHLers with little chance of breaking into the NHL long-term.