International Ice Hockey Federation

Hiller hopes for Korea

Hiller hopes for Korea

Swiss goalie has plenty of experience

Published 11.11.2017 19:11 GMT+10 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Hiller hopes for Korea
Swiss netminder Jonas Hiller could become the only goaltender at the 2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament who has played in 2010 and 2014 as well. Photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images
Jonas Hiller, 35, might be past his NHL prime, but he might turn out to be the only male goalie at the 2018 Olympics to have played in 2010 and 2014 as well.

Playing for Switzerland at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki at the Karjala Tournament this weekend, Hiller is almost certainly going to be named to the Swiss team for PyeongChang. The tournament may be a tryout for many players, but world-class goalies are hard to come by in Switzerland, and Hiller qualifies.

“There’s this tournament and then the Spengler Cup,” Hiller said yesterday after watching from the bench as his team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Czechs. “Those are the only two tournaments we’ve got left. With NHL players not coming, it’s going to be mostly the team here that participates. It’s all about preparation for the Olympics, so it’s cool to be here playing against some top nations. It’s too bad we don’t have a win yet.”

The team’s other game was a 3-2 loss to Canada in Biel to kick off the Karjala Tournament with Hiller in the net at the arena where he plays his club hockey. “It was an alright game,” he said, self-critically. “It was a tough loss at the end. I thought we had a pretty good first period, started to take too many penalties in the second, which let them get in the game, and it was too late after that. It was a tough loss. I thought we could have done better. At the same time, for not having played our best game, we were in it to the end.”

A decade ago Hiller was the league MVP in the National League, after which he left for the NHL. He played for Anaheim for seven years and Calgary for two before returning home in the summer of 2016.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” he admitted. “I had a lot of great years over there, and you always want to play with the best players, which is the NHL. But, at the same time, I’m not getting any younger, and I looked at my family and my two kids. I didn’t want to be sent down to the AHL and be away from my kids going to one city and another. In the end, Biel was the best solution for me, and I have no regrets.”

Hiller played for Switzerland at the World Championship in 2007 and 2008, and it wasn’t until this past May he played at the Worlds again at the end of his first year back in his home country. In between, his NHL teams consistently made the playoffs, so his national-team games were limited to Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi four years later.

“The Olympics have been the best hockey the last while because it’s been best on best,” he enthused. “In Vancouver, it was amazing. Everyone was talking about the games. Same in Sochi. The NHL playoffs are more physical but international hockey is more technical. I feel bad that the NHL isn’t going to the Olympics in 2018, but still there are Olympic medals to be won.”

Hiller isn’t taking anything for granted, though. Yes, he has the reputation and experience, but he still has to play well this year to prove himself worthy again.

“We have quite a bit of good talent as far as goaltending goes,” he continued. “I’m hopeful that I’m part of the team, and I’ll go from there. It’s always an honour to play for the Swiss team, especially at the Olympics. I hope I’ll have a chance again.”

Between now and then, he can only do what he’s given the chance to do. “I think the assessment is part of how you play with the national team, part how you play in your league,” he theorized. “In the end, there are a lot of guys who want to go there. We’ve already got a pretty good group here in Helsinki, and I’m sure a lot of guys playing here will be at the Olympics.”

 

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