BERNE, Switzerland – When SC Bern plays the New York Rangers in an exhibition game prior to the Victoria Cup, the first NHL vs. Switzerland clash will mean the most for two players in a Bern jersey: Rangers draftees Christian Dubé and Philippe Furrer.
Furrer, a 23-year-old national team defenceman who has been in the Bern system since his early childhood, was picked in the sixth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and he also participated in Rangers camps. However, Furrer decided that playing for the Swiss top club and the national team is better for his development and he has a contract until 2011.
After missing most games with two injuries in the young season, Furrer had his comeback Thursday. SCB won the clash of the two Swiss Champions Hockey League teams against the ZSC Lions Zurich, 4-1. It goes without saying that he wants to show his best against his NHL organization.
Christian Dubé knows how it is to play in a Rangers jersey. He was a second-round pick in the 1995 draft. Born in Quebec City, Dubé developed in Switzerland until the age of 16, playing – while his father was there as a pro – for the junior teams of Sierre, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Martigny before moving to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Thanks to his long junior background in Switzerland, he doesn’t count as an import even if he’s not a Swiss passport holder.
Dubé played in the Rangers organization for three years with 36 NHL games (one goal, one assist) and 152 games for the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack (32 goals, 83 assists). The Canadian left for the Swiss league in 1999 and after three seasons with HC Lugano, he joined SC Bern. The 30-year-old leads the scoring of SC Bern with six points and eight assists in eight games.
Christian Dubé, how was your season so far?
We had a very good start and won seven of eight games. Despite the injured players, it’s tough to beat us.
How was the season for you personally, as a top scorer?
It was pretty good. I’ve scored in almost in every game and the team is winning, so I can’t complain. I hope it keeps going like this.
How much are you as a former Ranger looking forward to the game on Tuesday?
It’s going to be a good game. Some of our players have a good opportunity to play against an NHL team. I’ve been there a long time ago, so it will be a special game for me. We’re trying to have a good show for the fans. It’s in the middle of the season but it will be alright.
What did you think when you heard you’re going to play against the Rangers?
It was great. It was impressive for a 19-year-old to play with guys like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Luc Robitaille, Brian Leetch. It’s great to be in one of the best NHL organizations all-time but it was not easy for a young guy to make the team.
You’re one of the top performers in the Swiss league. Haven’t you thought about going back to the NHL and trying it again?
No, I’m almost 31 now, so it’s a little bit late to go back. I thought about some years ago but it’s good here. I’m happy here and so is my family.
What will the game be like?
It will be a hard game. I hope we won’t get killed! It’s hard to play one of the best teams in the world. We have to give our best. I hope it will be a tight game and a good one for our fans.
How much do you think will the Rangers take the game against you to heart, thinking that they play Metallurg Magnitogorsk the following day?
I don’t know but they’ll have 25 to 30 players. They’re season is starting a few days later, so they have to get ready for this and will hopefully take it seriously. They know that we also have some good players.
It’s not your only international appearance. You had a celebration on the ice after the qualification to the Champions Hockey League two weeks ago. How was this for you?
It was a very good feeling to qualify. We wanted to qualify directly by winning the championship and we’re happy that we are finally in. It’s great to play against the best teams and it will be hard to win the group for any team.
You’ll have a road trip to HV71 Jönköping, Sweden, soon. Are you already informed about the Champions Hockey League opponents?
Not yet. We focus game by game but in a couple of days we will look at the game in Sweden.
Like last year, you look good in the regular season standings. Why do you think would SC Bern win the Swiss league this time?
I think we have more depth, especially with Martin Plüss as a big addition. We have four good lines now. When everybody will be back from the injuries, we’ll definitely be hard to beat.
There were rumours some years ago that you want to naturalise and to play for the national team. Is this still true?
I wanted to do it and to play at the 2006 Olympics but there were some issues with the national team we couldn’t solve, so I didn’t apply.
What’s your score prediction for the game against the New York Rangers?
I’d say 5-3 or 5-4 – for us!