Bob Hartley- Calgary Flames Hire The Zürich Miracle Man

Bob Hartley will be remembered in Zürich, Switzerland for a long time to come. The former Colorado Avalanche and Atlanta Thrashers coach performed a miracle in the Swiss NLA championship, taking a decent ZSC Lions team, who were still in a rebuilding stage and turned them into Swiss Champions in a dramatic 7th game final after only one year in charge.

Hartley was named ZSC Lions coach on March 14, 2011 taking over the reigns from former Team Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson. Despite having the experience of ex-NHL players such as Jeff Tambellini, Cory Murphy, Steve McCarthy and Domenico Pittis, the Lions did not have a dominating season by any means, playing sporadically good hockey and at one stage even looking like they may miss the playoffs completely.

After ending the season with a 19 win/19 loss record (minus extra-time and penalty wins and losses), the Lions secured 7th spot in a 8 team playoff race and were dismissed as contenders after drawing last year’s Swiss Champion HC Davos in the first round of the NLA playoffs. Enter Bob Hartley.

ZSC defeated the 2nd placed HC Davos in an empathic 4-0 sweep, winning games 1 and 3 at the difficult-to-play-in Valliant Arena, high in the mountains of Switzerland and then continuing that winning run for home games 2 and 4 to demolish the Swiss Championship record holders.

The reward for fine play? … A date with 1st placed overall, regular season champions EV Zug. With Zürich’s win over Davos seen as pure luck by the Swiss media, Hartley worked his magic again, not only winning the second round matchup but again sweeping Zug in 4 unbelievable games.

Surely this run could not continue for a team that finished the regular season with a .500 win/loss average! After 8 games undefeated in the playoffs, the Lions had achieved the seemingly impossible, a Swiss championship finals appearance against the heavily-favoured SC Bern, a team from the Swiss capital that averages around 17,000 fans in a very intimidating Post Finance Arena.

ZSC lost their winning streak in game one of the final series with a 4-2 loss, followed by 2 more losses in the next 3 games, setting up a 3-1 Bern series lead. Enter Bob Hartley again. Two wins later, the Lions found themselves in game 7 with one hand on the trophy. Naturally to add some more drama to their season, Zürich won the game with 3 seconds left in the 3rd period through a Steve McCarthy goal to hand them their first Swiss Championship since 2008.

Hartley has a record of 49 NHL playoff wins with 35 losses and has already won the Stanley Cup while the head coach of the Avalanche in 2001. With a coach like Miracle Bob at the helm, Calgary need only to find a way to make the playoffs and the rest should take care of itself. Vegas odds anyone?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKyHypoaqEU

Daniel Schöpf

Daniel Schöpf

Admirer of the NHL, Canucks and the Swiss NLA. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @HockeyWest
Daniel Schöpf

3 Comments

  1. For your information, the playoffs are played 1 game each home/away and not 2 games in a row at the same place as in the NHL. Your article is therefore slightly incorrect.

    It also has to be mentioned that the team was not exactly in a full rebuild mode, but was rather underperforming since winning the Victoria Cup against Chicago. There are several Swiss national team members on the roster and the payroll is among the highest in the league.

    I do not want to diminish the role of Hartley who was able to bring back a culture of hard work and dedication which was missing. But it’s not like he is a miracle worker taking an amateur team to the championship or anything close like that.

    • Daniel THW says:

      Thanks for the read. You are absolutely right, slip on the figures there, games 1 + 3 were played away from the Hallenstadion in every ZSC series (too much NHL playoffs on the brain).

      The article was actually not tongue-in-cheek, naturally Hartley is of course only human after all but his accomplishment taking the Lions from 7th to the championship through teams like Davos, Zug and Bern could be seen as a minor miracle. 

      Also, I am a huge ZSC fan myself and did not miss one minute of the entire playoffs as well as being a former season ticket holder, absolutely Swiss players such as Bartschi,Ambuhl and Monnet were the ones who stepped up in the playoffs and are among the best in the league but this article was more pointed towards Canadiens fans who likely have never heard of these players, to give them a sense of who Hartley had in his corner from an NHL perspective. Definately no amateur team but they were sadly falling behind teams like Kloten and Davos until this year.

      Merci.. ZSC ole :)

      • I understand completely and I doubt that we would have won without Hartley as head coach. He has a rare combination of being brutally demanding while still being accepted by the players (and not mobbed out like others before, i.e. Hans Zach). He was just the kind of coach that we needed and I hope that he will continue to be successful should he be offered the position in Montreal.

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