Vermin flexes his muscles

Swiss winger with unusual parentage shows he’s a shooter

29.12.2011
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Scotia Bank Saddledome Calgary  Canada

Switzerland's Joel Vermin held up his end of the bargain with a pair against Sweden. Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images

CALGARY – After Switzerland’s heart-and-soul 4-3 shootout loss to Sweden in World Junior action Wednesday, the Canadian media quickly took to calling Joël Vermin “The Verminator”.

Never mind the subtleties of pronouncing the 19-year-old SC Bern forward’s surname correctly. Playing with Christoph Bertschy and Tanner Richard, he scored two stylish goals – one off the rush, another on a slapper from the high slot – against one of the tournament’s top teams, and that’s a feat of Arnold Schwarzenegger-like proportions.

Vermin, however, was taking it all in stride, as befits one of the most professionally experienced players on this year’s Swiss U20 entry – he debuted in the Swiss top league in 2009-10. “I think we can be pretty proud of the one point we got, but we’ve just got to calm down and not think about how good we are,” he told IIHF.com. “We’ve got to keep going and work hard every day.”

His pair versus Tre Kronor was particularly impressive given that he was largely off skates for six weeks prior to the tournament due to a foot injury.

The 180-cm, 84-kg winger has developed a mature, hard-working attitude while playing with some of Switzerland’s top veteran offensive talents in SC Bern’s Ivo Rüthemann and Martin Plüss.

“I think they’ve got a lot of experience, because they’ve played in lots of international championships and Olympic Games,” explained Vermin. “I’ve played with them [regularly] for the last year and I can learn from them to make my game better.”

As much as he enjoyed having the IIHF World Championship in Bern in 2009, Vermin has been even more impressed by the calibre of audiences he’s witnessed in Calgary so far.

“The crowds are much more crazy here in Canada,” Vermin said with a smile. “It’s crazy that the crowd was all behind us when we scored the third goal against Sweden. That was crazy!”

Vermin remains undrafted by an NHL club, but that’ll likely change in June 2012 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“I could have been drafted two years ago, but I don’t really think about that,” he said. “I just play my game and do my best on the ice.”

Despite his unusual international parentage, he’s determined to give his best in IIHF tournaments to Switzerland, and no other country.

“My father is from Holland and my mother is from Hungary – so I’m the only Swiss guy in my family!” Vermin explained with a laugh. Did he ever contemplate representing one of those other nations? “Well, for me, it was always going to be Switzerland. I mean, Hungary is pretty good at hockey. They’re always kind of up and down. But for me, I’m born in Switzerland and I feel like a Swiss. If I get the chance to play for the A national team, I will play for Switzerland for sure.”

Switzerland must now prepare for back-to-back games against Latvia and Slovakia to close out its Preliminary Round slate. And “The Verminator” is eager to say “Hasta la vista, baby!” to these two underdog foes.

“We’ve got to win these two games,” Vermin said candidly. “Against Russia and Sweden, we didn’t really have to, because they’re better than we are. But the next two games, these are key.”

LUCAS AYKROYD
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