The current playoff format of the 12-team NATIONAL LEAGUE A in SWITZERLAND has remained constant since it was first implemented during the 1988/89 season. The top eight teams qualify for the post-season and are paired off in best-of-seven-games quarterfinal series. Naturally, the knockout rounds continue until only two sides are left standing.
Although historically-successful HC DAVOS have won the most domestic titles in Switzerland since the National League A was first formed in the late 1930s, it is actually SC BERN — who have led all of Europe in attendance the past ten years consecutively — who are the club that have captured the most national championships (six) since the current playoff format was adopted in die Schweiz.
Despite the fact that the regular season champion has went on to win the National League A playoff title on exactly nine occasions in what is now 24 years, either the first or second place team has ultimately triumphed in the post-season two-thirds of that same time. This year in the Swiss Alps, however, it was underdogs who had their day in the domestic playoffs. None of the top four clubs for this 2011/12 regular season, including table-toppers EV ZUG or even defending 2011 champion HC Davos, would reach a final round which featured a remarkable tussle of the two lowest-seeded teams ever to meet on Switzerland’s biggest ice hockey stage.
Exactly half of the 12 National League A titles won by well-supported SC BERN (above) have been attained since the current post-season playoff format in place today was originally inaugurated at the conclusion of the 1988/89 regular season; Schlittschuh Club Bern have reached the playoff final in 10 of the past 24 seasons, a feat unmatched by any other Swiss club.
SC BERN finished the regular season in fifth place after firing Canadian trainer LARRY HURAS, the one-time New York Rangers defenseman who had steered the Swiss club to the 2010 National League A title, late this past October and promoting assistant ANTTI TORMANEN, the former Finland national team forward who first skated in 50 National Hockey League games for the Ottawa Senators and then later earned an Olympic bronze medal at the 1998 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.
SC ZURICH, who skated to three National League A titles in a nine-year stretch from 2000 to 2008 after posting just three national championships in the seven decades since the club was first founded in 1930, ended the regular season in seventh place under the direction of imported Canadian trainer BOB HARTLEY, the former Stanley Cup winner for the National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche on his first tour of duty in Switzerland.
Both clubs would see to it that, for the fifth time in the last seven years, the final series of the National League A playoffs was extended to the maximum seven games.
Host SC ZURICH (left, blue) and visiting SC BERN (right, white) line-up on their respective blue lines just prior to the start of Game Six of the 2012 National League A Final before a reported crowd of 11,200 spectators at the venerable Hallenstadion in Switzerland’s largest city.