The 2019/20 National League season was the third season as the National League (NL) – prior to the 2017/18 season, the league was known as National League A. This season’s favourites ZSC Lions won the regular season, defeating EV Zug in the final round of matches before the playoffs were cancelled. The 2020-21 season starts on October 1 with home games for SC Bern against HC Ambrì-Piotta, HC Fribourg-Gottéron against SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, Lausanne HC against SCL Tigers and HC Lugano against ZSC Lions. Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds looks at the contenders for the crown this season, and what it is that makes the swiss league the most attended league in Europe.
Europe has six hockey leagues which traditionally average 5000 or more fans per game: the Swiss National League, Swedish Hockey League, Russian Kontinental Hockey League, German Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Czech Extraliga and Finnish Liiga. And for many years, the Swiss National League has consistently seen the biggest average crowd sizes of all of them.
Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds are on best attended league in Europe
The National League (NL) is the top tier of Swiss ice hockey. Swiss hockey is good, but not the best in Europe – the national team is currently ranked eighth in the IIHF World Rankings (sixth among European nations). And since the launch of the Champions Hockey League in 2014, the Swiss media have liked to point out that no Swiss club has so far been able to make a serious bid for the European club title. Read more about this year’s competition here Bet on Champions Hockey League 2021 Top Early Contenders.
The population base also is fairly small, with some teams located in provincial towns playing in arenas which are far from state-of-the-art. And yet, it is the Swiss National League that boasts the best average attendance figures in Europe. This seems to go against the logic found in other team sports such as football and basketball, where quality and population size are factors that, to a large degree, define attendance figures.
In 2015/16, the Swiss League set an all-time European record, becoming the first to pass the 7000-mark with 7026. This not only made it the best draw in Europe, but second in the world. It is, naturally, behind the NHL, which boasts around 17,500. And during the 2018–19 season, the league had an average of 6,949 spectators per game, again the highest among European leagues, ahead of the KHL with 6,397 and the DEL with 6,215.
Ranked third in this season’s 2020/21 betting odds, reigning champion club SC Bern 5.0 has been the most attended European club for 18 seasons, with an average regular season attendance of 16,290. In last season’s playoffs, each game at the PostFinance Arena was a sell-out of 17,031 – this in a city of 120,000 people.
A huge draw for fans
Since 2000, the National League has featured 12 teams, playing 50 games each – and this season’s Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds are on offer at trusted online gambling sites in Switzerland. The top eight make the playoffs to determine the Swiss champion in a best-of-seven series. The bottom four teams, however, face possible relegation. They play a tournament called ‘the playouts’, in which each team retains their regular season points and plays an additional six matches. Following those matches, the two bottom ranked teams play each other in a best-of-seven series, with the loser then playing the winner of the Swiss League playoffs (formerly National League B) in another best-of-seven series for a spot in the successive NL season. So, why is the league so popular with fans?
Besides a few small adjustments to the relegation system, this ‘Heaven or Hell’ mentality has remained. You make the playoffs, and compete for the championship, or you play for survival in a nail-biting campaign to avoid relegation. The Swiss have stuck with this no-compromise system while many other top European leagues have expanded, even introducing a ‘pre-playoff’ round, where teams placed 7 through 10 play a best-of-three or best-of-five series to make it to the quarter-finals. This pretty well reflects the national character of the Swiss – think twice before making a change.
Most Swiss stars stay
Although the quality of Swiss hockey has improved greatly over recent years, there are only 11 Swiss players in the NHL. This means that the majority of Swiss national team players play at home. This is a luxury that Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia don’t have. Swedes, for example, account for 11.4% of all NHL players, with 79. The Finns accounts for 4.8% with 33, while the Swiss account for only around 1.6%. You can also be on the Finnish Liiga here Bet on Ice Hockey in Finland Shows Kärpät Odds On for Liiga 2020/21.
Lions Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds – historic and regional rivalries
Hockey is about rivalries and nowhere are they stronger than in Switzerland, where local identity, and pride, is very important. There is the historic rivalry between the three neighbouring clubs SC Bern 5.0, Fribourg-Gottéron 21 and SCL Tigers 51. The Zurich rivalry between Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds tip ZSC Lions 3.74 and Kloten, and the French clash of Genève vs. Lausanne. There is probably no hotter derby in Europe than Lugano 18 vs. Ambri-Piotta 41, both from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. And then, of course, all the rivalries over the linguistic borders. Needless to say, this is all very good for business.
It’s a good show
Ottawa Senators’ coach Guy Boucher, who was the coach of SC Bern from 2013 to 2016, said of the Swiss league “It is a good and fast league, it’s faster than the American Hockey League… I would not recommend a 30- or 32-year-old former NHLer going there as the league is probably too fast for you”.
The Swiss league is a fun league to watch. Maybe it’s because the Swiss players are not as tactically schooled as the Swedes or the Finns. At the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, most observers concluded that although of top quality, the tournament was not a great spectacle. And why? World-class players don’t often make mistakes, and mistake-free hockey can be boring at times. The National League is not as tactically driven as the SHL, the Liiga or the KHL, but it’s fast and up-and-down, and very entertaining.
Fewer foreign players feature in the Swiss League
Although not a rule, the current ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between Swiss League clubs limits them to four non-Swiss players on the ice during matches. More foreign players may be under contract, but only four are allowed on the game sheet. This works well in two ways.
Firstly, each club is under pressure to scout well, and sign high quality imports who really can improve the team. They cannot afford to fail when signing a Canadian, Russian, Swede or Finn. As a result, the quality of foreign players in the Swiss league is high. And they are also well compensated – Switzerland’s National League is the world’s third highest paying ice hockey championship, after the NHL and the KHL. Current examples are Deniss Smirnovs and Tim Bozon with Genève-Servette HC 9.0 and Floran Douay and Josh Jooris with Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds underdogs Lausanne HC 18. Secondly, it guarantees that 17 players on each team on any given night are Swiss, which obviously is good for Swiss hockey as a whole.
The subject of import players is an ongoing topic of debate among team owners and GMs. Some want to allow more than four import players per game in order to reduce the salaries of star Swiss players. Others, however, want to keep a limit of four to allow more Swiss players to have top roles on their teams.
Previous National League Champions over the last decade:
Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds – contenders
Since 1999, only four clubs have won the Swiss title – Zurich, Bern, Davos and Lugano. They are the traditional powerhouses of Swiss hockey, who the other clubs want to beat. And despite this dominance, there is good competition in the league, with clubs like Zug, Fribourg-Gottéron, Genève-Servette and Lausanne more than able to compete. It is not unknown for the regular season winners to be sent home with their tails between their legs by the 8th placed team in the quarter-finals. So who are the contenders to take the title this season?
Current outright winner odds at 1XBET Sportsbook:
Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds have ZSC Lions favourite
Locally nicknamed ‘the Zett’, ZSC Lions 3.74 formed in 1997 as a result of a merger. Zürcher Schlittschuh Club (German for Zürich Skating Club), highly popular but struggling financially in National League A, merged with the ice hockey section of Grasshopper Club Zürich, who had failed to qualify for promotion from National League B several years in a row. Grasshopper had a small fan base, but were backed by billionaire entreprenuer Walter Frey.
They’re now one of the best four teams in Switzerland – although last season they had to play the relegation round. This led to a change in coaching. Former Swedish National Team coach Rikard Grönborg is now behind the bench, and has changed their imports. Only two, Maxim Noreau and Fredrik Pettersson, are still with the team. And with additions Joni Orsi (FIN), Marcus Krüger and Garrett Roe, the team looks stronger and more balanced.
Currently second in Swiss National League A 2020/21 betting odds, EV Zug 4 won their only championship in 1998. Founded in 1967, the club’s fortunes changed in 2010 when they moved to a new arena. In the last three seasons, they have had two shots at the championship, but lost both finals to Bern. And they have money to spend – but will this money get them their second title?
With their coach Dan Tangnes in his second season behing the bench, they are now where they want to be. Alongside imports Carl Klingberg (SWE), Jan Kovar (CZE), Oscar Lindberg (SWE), David McIntyre (CAN) and Erik Thorell (SWE), they have also grabbed Leonardo Genoni from Berne. They are one of the better teams in this early stage of the new season, meaning things could happen this year.
SC Bern 5 has won 16 championships. In 1998 the club almost had to file bankruptcy, but was able to turn itself around, and can now also boast one of the best arenas in European hockey. It has the biggest stadium outside of the NHL, with its 17,031 seats offering a spectacular view of the game.
The best games to watch are against HC Davos 7, the ZSC Lions or SCL Tigers, which all have their own history. Even a game against HC Lugano can be a thriller. In the early ’90s the games were hotly contested, and with a lot of fighting. Nowadays it’s not quite the same, but the rivalry still exists. The latest imports are Mikko Koivissto (FIN), Mark Arcobello (USA), Andrew Ebbett (CAN) and Jan Mursak (SLV).
Their new head coach, Christian Wohlwend, may well be familiar from the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. Davos is in the middle of the alps in the Canton of Graubünden and has the highest arena in Switzerland, at an altitude of 1,500 meters. Most teams have problems playing here, because the air is thinner than in other places where hockey is played.
With Jems Olsen (SWE), Otso Rantakari (FIN), Pertu Lindgren (FIN) Aaron Palushaj (USA) and Mattias Tedenby (SWE), their imports look strong. But will they find the chemistry they need to succeed? Currently the pre-season is still in play, but you can find Swiss National League A 2020/2 betting odds a number of good online sportsbooks in Switzerland between now and when the season starts next month.