Swiss team feeling pride over Kane, Seguin

CHICAGO -- Multiple text messages with the Switzerland country code of 41 popped up on Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin's cell phone on Tuesday.

Seguin didn’t have all the numbers saved into his phone’s memory, but he didn’t have to guess where they were all originating. Ever since Seguin and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane played for EHC Biel, a professional hockey team in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, during the NHL lockout, the two players have found themselves being treated as lifelong members of the community’s hockey family.

With Seguin’s Bruins and Kane’s Blackhawks now meeting in the Stanley Cup finals, EHC Biel’s coaches, players and even their fans have been reaching out to them and delivering congratulatory messages for what the two players have accomplished since leaving Switzerland in early January.

“Today, I got text messages from coaches and a couple players, even some fans who got a hold of my number somehow,” Seguin said at the Stanley Cup finals media day on Tuesday. “I think we had a home there for a certain period of time. It was also a pretty big hockey city. It was a lot of fun. It’s nice to see them still showing the support today.”

Seguin and Kane didn’t know much of each other before they teamed up for EHC Biel. Seguin decided in late September he was going to play for EHC Biel, and Kane waited until late October to see where the lockout was going before he also chose to play in Switzerland.

EHC Biel coach Kevin Schläpfer was ecstatic he was handed two young offensive stars for however long they were going to be there. Schläpfer put Seguin on one line and Kane on another and told them to go to work. They were only united on power plays or when the team was desperate to score late in a game.

“I think they had to take on more responsibility because of their situation here,” Schläpfer said by phone on Tuesday. “They’re two big superstars, and everyone wants something from them. They have to show something every game. I told Kane in Chicago he has other superstars around him, and Tyler in Boston, too. In Switzerland, they have to take control every game. People are waiting on them. I told them make something, get that puck and make something.”

Kane nor Seguin disappointed. Seguin produced 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games, and Kane contributed 13 goals and 10 assists in 20 games.

One of their best games together came in a 7-2 win over Genève-Servette HC on Nov. 2, 2012. Seguin had four goals and one assist, and Kane had three assists in the victory.

“Geneve was in first place and had maybe lost one game and we beat them 7-2,” EHC Biel sports director Martin Steinegger said by phone on Tuesday. “It was just a big Tyler Seguin-and-Patrick Kane show. That was an amazing night for us, for me.”

Kane and Seguin lived in the same housing complex and spent plenty of time together throughout November and December in Switzerland. They developed a friendship off the ice and a high level of respect for what each other was able to do on it.

“He’s a great kid,” Kane said. “I had a lot of fun playing with him in Switzerland. Looking forward to playing against him now. I didn’t know him too much before.

“Just watching him in Switzerland, at first I thought for sure this kid is going to one day lead the NHL in goals or maybe in scoring because of the skill he has. His shot, his speed and his smarts for the game, too, I think you’ll see some special things from him in the future.”

Seguin joked Kane had to say that about him.

“I bought him a lot of movie tickets and dinners over there, so I’m happy he’s having my back,” Seguin said.

Seguin did have similar feelings for Kane’s game, too.

“It was a lot of fun,” Seguin said. “I got to know him. He’s a good guy. Obviously playing with someone that has that much talent and skill is definitely something you’re going to remember. We had a good time.”

EHC Biel’s personnel and fans certainly enjoyed having Kane and Seguin playing for them, but their support for the duo didn't diminish once they left. The EHC Biel hockey community has taken pride in the players’ individual and team accomplishments throughout the NHL season.

“I think it’s great for me, to be honest, for the whole town,” Schläpfer said. “I’m really proud of that situation. Now, it’s big talk [around the country] and in the papers, too. The papers in Switzerland call me every day wondering if I still have connections with Tyler and Kane. The whole Switzerland follows them. I’m happy. I told the guys I’m happy that a little piece of me is going to be on the Stanley Cup.”

As for who the EHC Biel’s community will be backing in the Stanley Cup finals, Steinegger provided a very Switzerland-like answer.

“That’s a tough call,” said Steinegger, who traveled to see Kane play twice in Chicago in April. “We have an internal family affair. My daughters are a little more for Tyler. My son is a big fan of Patrick. As a Swiss guy, I’m a little neutral.”