LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS, Switzerland – Not often do you see father and son playing for the same professional team on the ice. But that’s what the Shiryayevs did, and what the Fuchs’ will do on Friday night, both with HC La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The city in the Jura Mountains and its area is famous for its watch producers like Tissot, the grid street plan that’s so unusual for the country and as the birthplace of Chevrolet and Le Corbusier. But it’s also famous for its hockey team.
Although HC La Chaux-de-Fonds plays in the National League B today, it has a rich history and the six consecutive Swiss championships between 1968 and 1973 might stay as a record in Swiss hockey books forever.
In those days the town’s hockey legends like René Huguenin, Michel Turler or Gaston Pelletier played with the old logo with the letter H in a C shape in the style of the Montreal Canadiens before it was replaced with a logo with less potential for conflicts.
With a core of top players faithful to the club, La Chaux-de-Fonds is nowadays a top team in Switzerland’s second-tier league and might one day be close to a return to the National League A where it last played in 2001.
Among the modern-time heroes were not only local players, but also Valeri Shiryayev, who represented the Soviet Union and later Ukraine in nine IIHF World Championships. In 1989 he won World Championship gold for the Soviets being paired in the defence with Vyacheslav Fetisov.
He left his native Ukraine in 1991 and enjoyed a long career in Switzerland, mostly in La Chaux-de-Fonds where he and his family received Swiss citizenship.
Shiryayev defended the colours of his team as long as his body allowed him to, which was impressively until the age of 44. This allowed him to play two seasons with his son, Yevgeni, who represented Switzerland in one U20 World Championship Division I.
One year ago they came together again on the ice when Yevgeni was playing for the Basel Sharks in the same league while his father had a short stint as an assistant coach.
Opposed to his father, Yevgeni opted to play as a forward. He was eight months old when the family moved from Kyiv to Switzerland and he still speaks Russian with his father while growing up speaking French and German.
“We played two seasons together before he had to quit due to a knee injury. It’s a great experience if you have a father who plays at such a level and you manage to play together,” Yevgeni Shiryayev said. “I grew into hockey, but while he was a defenceman, I always wanted to score the goals.”
As unique it is to have father and son play on the same professional team, it will likely happen again this weekend in Switzerland. And it will again be HC La Chaux-de-Fonds that will write a new father-and-son story, this time with the Fuchs family.
Same as Valeri Shiryayev, also Régis Fuchs enjoyed a long career in the Swiss top league, and he represented Switzerland internationally. In 2008 he ended his NLA career to move one tier below to his long-time club for the end of his career. Now at age 42, he gets the chance to play together with his son Jason, who moved from Basel to La Chaux-de-Fonds with his father four years ago, playing for the junior teams of the club.
The 17-year-old is one of the biggest talents in the organisation and has already practised with the senior team in the pre-season while starting the season in the U20 league. But now he got a call to join practice with the big guys. On Friday night another father-son story will be written when the team plays a game on the road in Langenthal.
And one more surname legendary in the club’s history might re-appear through a son on La Chaux-de-Fonds’ roster to join the likes of Neininger or Turler on the current team.
The Shiryayev family re-united: former Soviet world champion Valeri had a short stint as an assistant coach in Basel where his son Yevgeni still plays. Photo: Martin Merk