We’ve looked at Ontario Hockey League grads that are competing in the Sochi Olympics that came to Canada to play junior hockey and are now playing for their home country at the Games. Team Switzerland is a bit different. The Swiss have one forward and a head coach that both played in the OHL. However, these two grew up Canada. One was born in Canada while the other was born in Great Britain before moving to Canada.
Like Andre Lakos, a player for Austria that we talked about yesterday, Ryan Gardner will be quite noticeable on the ice at 6’6″ and 227 lbs. Gardner played parts of three years in the OHL from 1995-96 to 1997-98 with the London Knights and North Bay Centennials. Ryan was a second round pick by the Knights at the 1995 OHL Priority Selection, 21st overall and got to play in that wonderous three win 1995-96 season for London. He was sent to North Bay 19 games into the 1996-97 season.
In his final year of junior, Gardner played just nine games with the Centennials before heading to Switzerland. He played the rest of the year with Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss Elite Junior A league. Ryan also appeared with Ambri-Piotta in the National League A and Laussanne of the NLB.
Gardner played his first minor hockey in Visp, Switzerland as a child. His father, Dave Gardner played in Switzerland from 1980-81 to 1984-85 with his final two years in the Visp lineup. Ryan has spent his entire pro career in Switzerland and is in his fourth year with Bern.
In 2012-13, Bern placed second overall in the 12 team NLA, behind just Fribourg-Gotteron. The two teams then met in the playoff finals with Bern taking the championship in six games.
2014 is the first Winter Olympic Games for Gardner. Ryan played for Switzerland at the 2009, 2011 and 2013 IIHF World Championships. He is slated to play at the 2014 WC, as well.
Sean Simpson – Head Coach
Simpson played five years in the OHL from 1976-77 to 1980-81. His first season consisted of just four games with the Kingston Canadians. The rest of his OHL career was spent with the Ottawa 67’s. In 1979-80, Sean scored 65 and assisted on 84 for 148 points over 67 games with Ottawa. He also played for Canada at the IIHF World Juniors.
Sean played in Switzerland from 1989-90 to 1991-92, the final three years of his pro hockey playing career. Simpson coached club teams in Switzerland from 1992-93 to 1998-99 and again from 2003-04 to 2009-10 after a stint in Germany. He coached Zug to a championship in 1997-98.
Simpson has been involved with the Swiss national team since 2009-10. He has coached Switzerland at four World Championships. He was head coach of the junior team at the 2013 WJC with the team winning silver. Sean also spent two years as team consultant of the junior team and was general manager for the 2014 tournament.
Interestingly, Simpson got his start as a coach on the international stage with a country other than Canada or Switzerland. Sean was head coach of Belarus at the 2007 IIHF World Championships.
Switzerland 2014 Olympic Team
Switzerland has been climbing the ranks in recent years and could be an outside threat in 2014. The team is littered with familiar names who are playing or have played in the National Hockey League. In goal is Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. On defense, the trio of Rafael Diaz, Mark Streit and Yannick Weber will be no strangers to North American hockey fans. On forward, folks will recognize Damian Brunner and Nino Niederreiter.