The Ambri fans in front of the new Valascia. Image: keystone

Eismeister Zaugg

Ambri and the new Valascia – the stone soul of our hockey

Ambri overruns Gottéron in the first game in the new Valascia 6-2. Never before has a stadium opened in such an atmospheric way. It will not be easier for the opponents in the new Valascia than in the old one. On the contrary: it becomes more difficult in the square.

The arena stands on the old military airfield next to the village in the barren mountain valley of the Leventina. It looks like a space station. Like a foreign body. Futuristic. At first glance, it just doesn’t fit into this landscape.

Here the stranger expects everything that can be found in the mountains. Cable car stations, power plants, alpine huts, farmhouses, hotels, military installations, ski lifts. But not a brand new hockey arena.

And yet this stadium fits into the Leventina. In contrast to the new arena in Pruntrut (Ajoie), wood is not the most important building material. Ambri’s new temple is a house made of stone (concrete) and iron.

The new Valascia in the Leventina. Image: keystone

Sometimes the Gotthard is referred to as the stone soul of Switzerland. Seen in this way, this stadium at the Gotthard-Südfuss is the stone soul of our hockey. Emotions cast in stone and iron. But not frozen in stone and iron.

The Leventina is just not a gentle, fertile, hilly landscape reminiscent of the Shire (“Lord of the Rings”) like the Ajoie.

The Leventina is a barren, rough mountain valley. Flanked by high mountains. The trees are not there to end up as lumber. They are there to protect the valley dwellers from the falling snow masses (avalanches). This is another reason why stone and iron are the right materials for building a building.

The anxious question is asked again and again: Can the Ambris spirit live on in the new stadium? We can already give the answer after a game: yes.

Coach Luca Cereda, a son of the valley, is not entirely sure and does not like to judge as hastily as the chronicler. He says almost imploringly: “It is important that we stay as we are in this new stadium too.”

Ambri-Trainer Luca Cereda. Image: keystone

What he means: The arena is modern, functional, comfortable. The spirit of Ambris, however, is shaped by the hardships and privations of the old arena. There was no comfort for the players and the fans that could be compared to other stadiums.

So can this spirit live on in a state-of-the-art, comfortable stadium whose infrastructure is no longer different from other arenas? Luca Cereda says: “Maybe there will come a time when I have to open all the doors so that it can really move through the corridors like in old Valascia …”

It won’t be necessary. It may be that the cloakrooms are now like in all (or at least most) stadiums, that the arena no longer differs from other hockey temples in terms of its conception and basic features. But the atmosphere makes this place unique. This new Valascia is the loudest stadium in Switzerland, almost certainly Europe and therefore probably the world.

The acoustics are completely different from those in the wooden arenas in Langnau, Davos or Pruntrut. Much more intense, penetrating every fiber of the body.

This intensity of noise and chants has never existed before. Not in Bern. Not in Zurich. Not in Friborg. Not in Geneva. Not in Lausanne. Not in Biel. Not in Rapperswil-Jona. Not in train. And certainly not in Lugano.

It is the fans who ensure that the new Valascia will never be an ordinary stadium and that Ambri will never be an ordinary team. That the new Valascia will also remain a place of power for our hockey.

Ambris players let the fans celebrate. Image: keystone

The beginning of the game is like an eruption of emotions and noise. The hair on the back of the neck stand up. Chicken skin. Hockey culture.

In the first few minutes it is louder than in the final phase of a game that decides a championship.

Not even in the Allmend-Tempel, the largest in Europe, was it so loud in the last minutes of the game against Zug on April 30, 2019 – the SCB had to bring a 2: 1 over time in the last final to become champions.

There is a lot of talk about the energy that leaps from the audience to the players. But never before has this “power transmission” been so obvious and mutual: the passion of the players spurs the fans on. That’s hockey culture too.

A strong Gottéron has no chance whatsoever. Will be swept off the ice. Period.

The summary of the game. Video: SRF

The first hit occurs after just 84 seconds. After almost 4 minutes the second and coach Christian Dubé tries to give his players a break with a time-out. After 8 minutes and 52 seconds it is 3-0 and goalkeeper Connor Hughes is at the end: He has not saved three of seven shots (catch rate 57.14 percent) and has to give way to the titan Reto Berra.

It doesn’t matter that Gottéron started the game with number 2 in goal. No goalie in the world would have been able to withstand this onslaught. Not even someone like Leonardo Genoni.

Even Reto Berra can no longer avert the Gottéron defeat. Image: keystone

Of course, Ambri has more talent than last season. And in the square the better foreigners. But Gottéron is even more talented.

The difference makes the weird energy. Ambri scores “energy goals”. They are the result of an uncanny pressing and the duels won.

Gottéron is unlucky to be the first opponent, so to speak, the first “victim” in the new stadium. It would have been exactly the same for every other team, including Master Zug. The high expectations have boosted the players. Not paralyzed. On this very special evening, Ambri is invincible.

That this will happen is clear even before the game. For the second time in history, “La Montanara”, the melancholy hymn Ambris, is sung BEFORE the game. The first time fans started singing the song ten years ago in October 2011 before a game (which was then lost) in honor of the late Peter Jaks.

And now there is a novelty: the hymn is sung BEFORE and, because Ambri wins, also AFTER the game. Or better: Exactly one minute before the final siren, the fans sing the song of the mountains at 10:04 p.m. for the first victory in the new stadium. The double La Montanara.

A look into the new piece of jewelery from Ambri. Image: keystone

It is, of course, President Filippo Lombardi’s evening too. With his connections, he made the construction and financing of the 50 million dollar hockey temple possible.

He gave a brief opening address in Italian, French and German. On the large video cube, he looks dignified and majestic like a state president. And a little populist too. Of course, he also throws in the puck before the game.

Hardly anyone suspects that the timely opening with the game against Gottéron was hanging by a thread. After the game, the chairman said downstairs in the cabin corridor that the green light was only given last Monday at 4 p.m. “After a meeting on the last Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. we decided: Yes, we dare.”

He looks back with justified satisfaction. At first it was said that the new arena would never be built, then it was impossible to complete the construction at the planned time. “But we did it.”

It’s more than an exciting game, a lavish hockey party. It is a historic moment. The importance of this stadium project for the entire region goes far beyond sport. The new arena is a sign of what an apparently structurally weak region can achieve.

On Wednesday the team reined in the new arena and moved into the dressing room. The first training session in the new stadium took place on Thursday.

The view from the press box into the new Valascia. Image: keystone

But it was definitely only yesterday Saturday at 4 p.m. – i.e. 3 hours and 45 minutes before kick-off – that the game could be played.

Filippo Lombardi explains: “Of course not everything is perfect. But that wasn’t the problem. But the controls by the authorities. Everything in the new stadium had to be removed. We didn’t have the last inspection and approval until Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ” Was the inspector allowed to stay right away for the game? “No, he just wanted to get away. He is a Lugano fan. “

Stadiums are structures that are only allowed to be opened to the public once they have received permits from various authorities (security, fire protection, electrical installations).

The stadium is now open and there really only remains one question: is Ambri now a top team?

Answering this question after two games and two wins (2: 1 nV in Zurich, 6: 2 against Gottéron) would be dubious. Ambri cannot rock so intensely in all 52 games. No team in the world would be able to do this.

But this Ambri has a chance against any team, including the titans of the league. It won’t be any easier for the opponents in the new arena than in the old Valascia

But on the contrary. It gets more difficult in the square.


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