By Andrea Branca and Nicola Martinetti
Special to Hockey Inside/Out
ASCONA, Switzerland – Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was introduced to the Swiss hockey media Wednesday at a news conference to unveil HC Ambri Piotta’s newest acquisition.
Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 65 points in his 79 games last season, will be in Ambrì through the NHL lockout thanks to the “Seven Group” (that financially made his signing possible) and the great job of GM Jean-Jacques Aeschlimann.
“Pacioretty comes from an Original Six club, Aeschlimann said, “but also in Ambrì we have a great hockey tradition, even though we play in a small village.
“We are very proud to welcome Max to our team. Right now we are waiting for the international transfer and his work permit. We hope to get this done before Friday, when Pacioretty could play his first game in Ambrì against Fribourg Gotteron.”
Pacioretty will be coached by Kevin Constantine, who during his NHL career led the San Jose Sharks (1993-96), Pittsburgh Penguins (1997-2000) and New Jersey Devils (2001-02). About Pacioretty, Constantine said:
“We are lucky to have Max Pacioretty on our team. The NHL lockout is a tricky situation to handle. Fortunately in our organization we have people who faced this situation in the past. The most important thing to us was to bring to Ambrì a highly motivated player, willing to give everything for our club. With Max we definitely did that!”
At the end of the news conference, we had the chance to ask Pacioretty a few questions in a 10-minute interview.
He explained that it was “an honor to be here. I grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL, but I also learned the importance of the European leagues. I understand that right now I’m on a special team with a strong tradition. The rink speaks for itself. Right there you can actually feel the history of this hockey club (75 years old). Like in Montreal, here the players wear the jersey with a strong sense of pride.”
In Montreal you play with two Wwiss defenceman, Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz. What did they tell you about Switzerland last year? Did you contact them before accepting Ambrì’s offer?
“Yes, I told Diaz that I had the chance to come to Switzerland during the lockout and he explained me how competitive this league is and how great is living in this country. I can’t wait to meet them on the ice, I’m thrilled by this experience.”
A new meeting between NHL and NHLPA is scheduled Friday… What’s your opinion about the lockout? How much do you think is going to last?
“I don’t see them finding a solution quickly. I think that Gary Bettman and the owners will go on with their politics, but I don’t see that as a problem. I’m in a great situation here in Switzerland, I’ve been here only for two days but I already understand why people loves this place. I can’t wait to play, I’m hungry and focused on my new club and I hope to help them doing what I can do best: play hockey.”
Last year you played your first entire NHL season. How does it feels to be in a small club that plays in a small village?
“I’ve never seen anything like this before! I wasn’t sure about what I could expect, but once my plane took off I stopped thinking about it and until now everything worked perfectly. I hope to help Ambrì on the ice, during the games, but also off the ice.”
Last season you played great, but the Canadiens ended their season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference…
“Ice hockey is all about playing together. I did everything I could to help my teammates and my organization, but it wasn’t enough. I work hard during the summer and it’s curious that here in Ambrì we are in a situation which is very similar to the situation back in Montreal (Ambri has missed the playoffs the past six seasons). I’ll jump into this adventure with both feet and I’ll use my motivation to help the team.”
Last year you won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy…
“If you want to improve and be the best, you have to be very competitive and I think that this gave me the motivation necessary to get back on the ice after my injury. The support of the people in Montreal was amazing, and my friends and family were close to me every day. I believed that I could come back stronger than ever… and I did it.”
What can you tell us about your first practice with your new team?
“I skated this morning with the guys and everyone was very kind with me. Being here feels incredible, but it will be even better if we could win a couple of games in the next days.”
With thanks to the authors and a terrific website in Switzerland, HeShootsHeScoores.com. From its creator: Andrea “Andy” Branca is the founder and administrator of HeShootsHeScoores.com, a Swiss website that covers everything happens in Swiss ice hockey, with a close eye to HC Ambrì Piotta and HC Lugano. Andrea has a bachelor of science in communication and a master degree in media management, and successfully runs his blog thanks to the help of a few friends that makes this website a great reality.
Below: Max Pacioretty at Wednesday’s news conference displays his Ambri Piotta jersey, which he’ll wear in the Swiss A League. He’s flanked by coach Kevin Constantine (left) and general manager GM Jean-Jacques Aeschliman.
Courtesy Andrea Branca, heshootshescoores.com