Schelling new GM at SC Bern
by Martin Merk|08 APR 2020
Florence Schelling has worked as head coach of the Swiss U18 women’s national team most recently. Today she was named GM of one of the biggest men’s club teams in Europe.
photo: Robert Hradil / HHOF-IIHF Images
Former Swiss women’s national team goaltender Florence Schelling, who earlier this year served as head coach of the U18 women’s national team, lands a new job as GM. What makes it special is that she will be the General Manager and Sports Director of SC Bern, one of the biggest hockey clubs in Europe, in men’s hockey.

That’s the club that has won multiple Swiss championships in recent years and history, and has for many years been the club with the highest attendance in hockey outside the NHL.

Schelling becomes the first woman in Switzerland to work in such a high operational position in men’s hockey and arguably anywhere else in the world.

There have been women before in high positions further away from the team, may it be as board members or even President – Vicky Mantegazza succeeded her father at SCB’s league rival HC Lugano. At operational level Jenny Silfverstrand has been the CEO of Djurgarden Stockholm in Sweden and was hired to work in the same position for the Swedish Hockey League. In similar top administrative positions Barbora Snopkova Haberova works at Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and Gaby Sennebogen at the Straubing Tigers in Germany.

In North America NHL teams have recently become more open for women in sports position. On 23 August 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Canadian legend Hayley Wickenheiser as Assistant Director of Player Development. Just one month later, former U.S. national team player Cammi Granato was named pro scout by the NHL’s expansion franchise from Seattle. Both wrote history as firsts for women in the NHL.

Schelling even went a step further as GM of a big men’s pro team.

After a ninth-place finish in the regular season and missing the playoffs as defending champion there was of course big disappointment at the club – and the standard practice of criticism in the media and public. That’s why the club wanted a change and replace Alex Chatelain as GM while still keeping his knowledge for another position (Strategic Sport Developer and for hockey analytics) and looking for fresh blood.

“For us it was important to have a young, intelligent and visionary person. In our thoughts it was irrelevant whether this person would be male or female,” said CEO Marc Luthi. “More important is that the person knows something about hockey. She of course played in women’s hockey but she also played in men’s hockey, knows men’s hockey as TV analyst at Swiss TV. We have the feeling that she will deliver.”

As a teenager Schelling player in the top U17 and U20 men’s leagues as a goaltender in the ZSC Lions organization where she had future professional players as her teammates such as Lukas Stoop, Luca Cunti, Claudio Cadonau, Aurelio Lemm, Patrick Geering, Dominic Schlumpf, Reto Schappi – and her brother Philippe Schelling. Current SCB players Matthias Bieber and Eric Blum were among her teammates as well in Zurich. She even had the chance to practise with the club’s farm team GCK Lions in the second-highest senior league and played an exhibition game at that level as first and only woman to do so. For two years she was in the net for third-tier team EHC Bulach in men’s hockey.

To international hockey fans Schelling is best known as one of the finest goaltenders in women’s hockey in the 2000s. She had her international debut as a 15-year-old at the 2004 Women’s Worlds and retired after the 2018 Olympics. During that period she played every year in the Women’s Worlds or Olympics and backstopped Switzerland to bronze medals at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. On both occasions she was voted best goaltender of the tournament, in 2014 also MVP of the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in Sochi.

She also played and studied in the U.S. at the Northeastern University and played three years for Linkoping in the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL. After jobs as coach and outside of hockey, she now takes a big job in the men’s National League back home.

“I was surprised like all of you when I received the call from Marc Luthi. We had a couple of discussions about working together and they were very positive. I knew immediately that I wanted to accept the challenge. My main goal is to do a good job and bring SC Bern back to the top,” said Schelling.

One of her biggest tasks right now will be to find a new head coach and two import players. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic that effects all clubs, SC Bern will currently monitor the situation of the pandemic and its consequences for ice hockey before signing new contracts.