BERNE, Switzerland – Silver-medal winning Switzerland did not only write history as a team in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, but Roman Josi also became the first Swiss All-Star, Best Defenceman, and MVP.
With 20:08 minutes per game he was the most used skater on the Swiss team. He provided strong defensive play while also chipping in offensively with fast and agile rushes and dangerous shots from the blueline.
The Berne native, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Saturday, ended up scoring four goals – third on his team and first among all defencemen at the tournament – and having a team-high nine points.
Of course, Josi was disheartened when he received the awards after losing the gold medal game against Sweden. But now, two weeks removed from the Worlds, things look differently.
“I feel good. After some days everybody saw what we reached and we feel proud about the silver medal,” Josi said. “After the gold medal game it was tough for us because it was such a huge chance to win the World Championship.”
“We had a great team and the players were close together. That was special and it was the key to success. The team spirit was really unbelievable. On the first day I joined it felt like I’ve been part of the team for four weeks.”
For Josi it was clear after the first couple of games, with wins against Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic, that this year’s Swiss team would be able to achieve more than in the last few years.
“We had three top opponents first and thought that we could maybe beat one of the big teams, but not to get three straight wins. Everybody felt there could be a breakdown against the smaller teams but we also won against them,” Josi said. The Swiss streak of nine wins only ended in the gold medal game against Sweden where Josi opened the scoring in a match that ended with a 5-1 loss after three third-period goals from Sweden.
The awards and the silver medal got a place of honour in the living room of his new apartment in Berne.
“After the game everything went fast. We lost gold and I got the awards and didn’t really realize what I won but it was cool to get these awards.”
If you want an offensive-minded defenceman on your team, Josi is definitely one of the top shots to choose from.
Few fans would have expected him being named MVP and Best Defenceman before the tournament, but it came as a consequence of his steady development.
At just 16 years old, Josi played his first game for his hometown team SC Bern in the Swiss National League A on 24 November 2006. The day after he had registered his first point, and one month later he was the youngest player at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship among players who were three or four years older.
As a 17-year-old he had a fixed place on SC Bern’s line-up and as an 18-year-old he played his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with the senior national team – also held in the Swiss capital.
For him, playing and developing in Switzerland was the right way since he got the chance with his home club. By the age of 20 he had participated in two World Championships and four U20 World Championships. In his three professional seasons in his native country he won one championship with SC Bern before joining the Nashville Predators, who picked him in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, in 2010.
In his first two seasons he had bad luck and suffered injuries early in the pre-season camps. A strong candidate to make the NHL immediately, Josi spent his first season in North America entirely with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals after recovering from injury. Also in his second year he was sent to Milwaukee after an injury in the pre-season, but the Predators recalled him after five games.
Josi played 52 regular-season games in his rookie season and notched 16 points (5+11). This season he started at SC Bern with the Islanders’ Mark Streit and John Tavares until the end of the labour conflict in the NHL. Back in Nashville he became a top defenceman and in 48 games he had 18 points (5+13). Josi was usually paired with Shea Weber, the only player who got more ice time than Josi’s 23:31 per game and the only Predators defenceman who had more points.
For Josi and Nashville the season is over but behind the scenes talks are on for a new contract. His great season will make him a millionaire soon.
“As a player it’s cool to see how they bargain. It’s an exciting time although my agent does the work but he informs me how it’s going,” Josi said about the upcoming weeks. And despite the buzz he keeps both feet on the ground.
“I try to stay myself no matter what happens. I’m also happy to go to my usual environment with my family after the season,” he said and added with a smile: “They would tell me if I lifted off.”
During summer he will work to continue his steady development and become even stronger.
“I want to make a next step and have a better season with the Nashville Predators. Making the play-offs will be a goal and also the Olympics is a huge goal for me,” Josi said.
At the Worlds he could tell nice things about his time in the NHL. Simon Moser, one of the young revelations in the Swiss offence, is looking for an NHL team and got an invitation from the Predators.
“I told him that the organization and the city are cool, it’s nice to live there and I was hoping he would decide to join us,” he said.
While Josi played in his fourth World Championship with the national team, he hopes to become an Olympian soon after missing Vancouver 2010 due to an injury.
“The Olympics is one of the greatest things for a hockey player and it would be cool to be there. Unfortunately I missed the last Olympics and it was tough just to watch it on TV,” Josi said.
“It will be difficult for sure,” he said about Sochi 2014. “It’ll be difficult to confirm the second place, but we showed that it’s possible to achieve such a feat and I hope it’s not a one-off thing and we can play with the top teams in the next years.”
“We had many young players [in Stockholm] to whom the future of Swiss hockey belongs.”