CONTACT USmailto:icehockeytrips@me.com?subject=Hockey%20Trip
Italy-Switzerland 2001Italy-Switzerland_2001.html

Blueline Ice hockey

Hockey Europe

Italy – Switzerland  October 2001

November 2009,

For those of you who read about this tiip it may be hard for you to imagine what it was like to get  on a plane 32 days after 9/11

8 People walked away from a fully paid trip because they were afraid to fly. For those of us who went we could not have ever imagined how warmly we would be welcomed by our European friends. No trip has ever been so touching, I don’t think another one ever will. It was a time in life that you had to live through to understand.

John Coyle

Friday, October 12, 2001

I arrived at the airport at 2 p.m. 4 hours before our scheduled departure to Zurich Switzerland. When I walked through the door I was pleasantly surprised to see our entire group already assembled at the Swiss air gate. I passed out everyone’s ticket and we all checked in. After Check in we all headed to Delaney’s Bar for a burger and a beer before the flight. The pre-board check for this flight was quite different from any previous one. Almost every person and carry-on was searched by hand and the presence on National Guard soldiers with automatic weapons did add a certain amount of comfort.  As I boarded the plane I was happy to see that 5 of our group had been upgraded to Business Class. As I walked past their big roomy leather seats I could not help but feel a sense of envy. Later I learned that Ronnie Bresloff had actually not been upgraded, but rather had upgraded himself. He saw an empty seat and sat in it. As Ronnie say if you look first class no one will ask if you are. As you can see by this picture of Ronnie the morning we arrived in Zurich he truly enjoyed his upgrade. Our flight in coach was rather quiet until about mid-flight when a very Arab looking man started screaming at the stewardess. When I looked to see what was going on I saw that Anthony Fiumara was seated next to our crazy man and did not look very comfortable. As it turned out he was Israeli and just wanted more fruit cup, but Anthony did not sleep on the flight.  As we approached Zurich airport the Captain told us that due to the fog we would be landing on autopilot. It was a very strange feeling looking outside thinking you are up in the air and hearing the wheels hit the ground. As we disembarked and headed for customs we had to wait for Doug, Ron and Joe who had so thoughly enjoyed Business class that they we now profoundly jet lagged. The three of them and Anthony would become known to all of us and our hosts as the bad boys.

We picked up our ride and headed for the hotel.  Only one room was ready so the four bad boys headed for it and the rest of us went to see Zurich City. By 2 p.m. the rest of the rooms were available and we headed back for a shower. At 6 p.m we headed back to Zurich for October fest

Saturday, Night

When we arrived at October fest the tent was filled with about two thousand people all singing with the 20 piece um pah band. There were waitresses dressed in Lederhosen and glasses of beer that were 3 liters in size. There was no room for us inside the tent and we went outside and sat at a beautiful table alongside the river.  We ate the most delicious pork with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. The skin was as crispy as a French fry. After desert Elisa Elderbaum got up to go to the bathroom. When she didn’t come back we got up to see what had become of her. When we opened the door everyone who had been sitting was now standing on the table with their beer glasses raised in the air singing. There was Elisa dancing up and down the allie  to “Hey Baby I want you to be my girl uh, ah. She was having so much fun the bouncers had to intercede as dancing in the aisle was not allowed.  To hear everyone singing these American songs in their German accents was really an incredible experience.  The next song was “we are the champions” by queen.  They all knew the words, but I do not think they knew what they meant.  This was the only restaurant I have ever been to that the men’s room had a view of the river.

Sunday October 14, 2001

Everyone was up early for our 9 a.m. game in Zurich. The bad boys had not gotten back to the hotel until 5 a.m., so it was a little difficult getting them up to play.  We arrived in Woltskoven and met our host Reto.  We played a spirited game, but lost 6-3. After the game we went upstairs to the Rink restaurant for a drink with the other team.

About 1 p.m. we headed for the Castle at Rapersville.  This was a beautiful old city, about 500 years old. We all had lunch in the town square where they were selling Bratwurst and beer out of open booths. The sun had burned through and it was 70 degrees.  We all sat outside soaking up the sunshine marveling at what a beautiful old place this was.  We took the long way home along Lake Zurich and enjoyed the scenery of the changing foliage and mountains.

Sunday night

7 p.m. and we were back in Zurich.  There was a food show in the convention center. For $10 we got in and you could eat and drink anything inside. There were about 20 company’s giving away wine and another 20 giving away beer. We met guys selling Budweiser and they explained to us that their beer was from the Chec Republic and was the original beer. They both had played hockey in the W.H.L. and we talked about hockey for quite a while. They even invited us to visit them when we go to Prague.  There was fish, chicken, olives and hundreds of other food to mange on. However, it was all a little high brow and I really wanted to go back to October fest.  When we got back to the October fest tent it was significantly less crowded, than the night before, and we got a table inside the tent.  We eventually figured out it was Gay and Lesbian night, but it didn’t stop us from having a great time. After diner the Bad boys showed up and it was quite a memorable evening.

Monday October 15, 2001

We were splitting into two groups. One group was traveling by train and the other by bus to our destination in Merano Italy. 

The sights from the train were breathtaking as we traveled through the Swiss Alps and into the Italian Alps. There were Lakes and waterfalls, snow capped mountain peaks and 300-year-old villages. We changed trains in Innsbruck Austria and Milano Italy. We arrived in Merano at about 4 p.m. and were very impressed with what we saw. We sat down at the Restaurant in the station to await our ride. After a few moments Maurizio and Fabio, two people who would become our very good friends, showed up.  They explained they were from the Old Kest hockey team and were here to take us to our hotel, the hotel Daniela.

When we arrived at the hotel Robert Hozel and Simone Pietro who was the captains of the teams we were playing in Merano met us. We checked into beautiful rooms with balconies and a great view of the surrounding mountains.

After checking in we headed to the rink. We had been assigned a locker room that would be ours for the next 4 days. We dropped off the equipment and got a tour of the beautiful 2-year-old facility. The Stadium held over 6,000 people and had an Olympic ice surface.

Monday Night

We arrived at the rink and headed for our private locker room. Tonight we were playing Robert Hozel team the HC Maiser Drachen Meran. Rat Dog, Mauro, Fabio and Simone from the Old Kest team had agreed to play this first game with us and add a little firepower. The game began with the National Anthem of both countries. The Mayor of Merano gave John a plaque from the city and the President of Hockey Club Merano gave John a jersey and all of us free passes to the professional game Tuesday night 

The first period started poorly for us and we were down 2-0 very quickly. However, with 5 minutes remaining Ronnie Bresloff picked up the puck and skated the length of the ice to put us on the board. We got another with a minute remaining and ended the period tied 2-2. The second period started with Joe Costello scoring on a one-timer form Doug Patrick. That was about the high point for us. The second period ended tied 3-3. The game was pretty even until the final 5 minutes when they scored 3 unanswered goals to go on to win 6-3.

We headed to a local restaurant for dinner. This was our first experience with Italian pizza, which is quite different from what we are use to in the states.  There were about 50 types of pizza with gazillion different toppings. The pizzas are all cooked in wood ovens and are ready to eat 5 minutes after you order them. At the restaurant we met members from both the teams we would be playing over the next 3 days. The tables were broken up into groups that had at least one person who could speak both Italian and English. This first night was a start to making what would become great friendships.

That night we meet Roberto Duvall who would become known to us as “RAT Dog”. His real nickname was RED Dog, but we misunderstood his English. Three days later when it was explained to us what his name was we decided we all preferred RAT Dog and so named him.

As the week went on all of our hosts English would improve dramatically. Looking back at that night as we struggled to communicate I am glad I was sitting next to Robert and Simone who spoke excellent English and kept me abreast of all the other conversations. We ended up closing this restaurant, like so many others, and headed home about 3 a.m.

Tuesday October 16, 2001

My goal every morning was to get up early enough to catch Henry Muller before he headed out for his day of exploration. Three hours of scouting with Henry is a full day for most others. So I headed out this morning, but first stopped for the free breakfast it the dining room. Downtown Merano is a beautiful sleepily place alongside a river and surrounded by mountains that touch the sky. At night when you looked up you could not tell where the houses on the hill stopped and the stars started. The streets are lined with cobblestones and are narrow. The shops are filled with pleasant people who really do close their doors for 3 hours each day and take a siesta.  By noontime I headed back to the hotel to try out this siesta things and check on the rest of the group. Everyone was up even the bad boys. They were heading out for some shopping. I reminded everyone that game time was 7 p.m. and they were off

7 p.m. and Robert was at the hotel to escort us to the professional game at the rink. Hockey Club Merano was playing Vipetino. There was a large beer tent set up at the stadium and that is where we met our friends from the previous night.  Simone who owned the sports bar at the arena made sure that everyone enjoyed themselves between periods and Robert told us about all the history of the clubs. Merano 6-3 won the game. After the game we went to another restaurant for more pizza. By 1 a.m. I was ready to call it a night, but most of the team went to a local bar with our hosts to play darts. They were joined by 10 of the professional players from the Merano team. One spoke only   Russian and another only Chec, but the more everyone drank the more they understood each other. Our Goalie Kenny Milau won the dart tournament and nearly started an international incident with the Russian who was not use to losing. At 4 a.m. they closed up and everyone walked back to the hotel.

Wednesday October 17, 2001

0900 up before everyone and walked to Merano. Got cappuccino at a café alongside the river and soaked up the sun and view.  We had received a lot of attention from everyone here in Merano, but none more so than from the police. Insp. Capo Paolo had gone to great lengths to insure our safety. There had been 5 or 6 police cars at each of our games and they made regular checks on us daily.  All of us never felt anything, but safe on this entire trip. Everyone we met expressed their solidarity with their sorrow and us about    rwhat had occurred on 9/11.  However, it was the job of the Police to make sure we were safe and they did a wonderful job of making it so.  The Inspector had ridden his motorcycle to our hotel on Monday night to introduce himself to us. He and Ronnie struck up a conversation about motorcycles and we all became fast friends. We traded Police patches and Hats and he visited us everyday we were there.

When I got back to the hotel Tony was sitting outside on the patio eating Chocolate cake and drinking cappuccino; when you miss breakfast you eat what you can. In the next few minutes everyone was downstairs and an impromptu team meeting ensued.

3 p.m. Rat Dog came to take anyone interested to Bolzano, a neighboring town, to buy hockey equipment. As everyone pulled away with him Roger and Elisa arrived. They were looking for Anthony who was to go to dinner at Romeos house with them. Romeo did not speak English very well and Anthony was supposed to be the translator. They were very disappointed to learn they would be going to diner and no one was going to be able to communicate.  At this point Romeo arrived and invited me to take Anthony’s place. Romeo had a lovely home and his beautiful wife Carmen was a perfect host. Three bottles of wine some Italian liquor they call Grappa and we were all speaking the same language, or at least we were laughing a lot about it. We had another game at 8 p.m., so we said thank you and Romeo drove us back to the hotel.

Game 3

When we arrived at the rink there was an Italian Television crew and Newspaper reporter there. They were interviewing Anthony our Italian hockey player and Lynn our only female.

Tonight we played the Old Kest team that was run by Simone Pietro. Once again they played the national Anthems, we traded gifts and the game began.  Ron Bressloff came out flying and scored 2 goals in the first 5minutes and we ended the first period ahead 3-1. The second period began with Lynn Kramer taking a pass from Mauro and breaking in for her first score of the trip. This game was very laid back because we had become such

Good friends with all the players during the week.

    We won the game 6-3 and headed off for another late diner at a local restaurant. By 2 a.m. it was time to head home. We were going to Venice in the morning and had to catch a bus at 6 a.m.

Thursday October 18, 2001

Only 6 of us got up to make the trip. The bus picked us up at 6:30 a.m. and we were in Venice by 10. We met our English-speaking guide and boarded a boat for our trip into Venice city. Our tour began just outside St. Marks Square.

Thursday night

We got back to the hotel about 9 p.m. and who to our surprise should meet us there, but Mauro, Simone and Rat Dog. They said they wanted to take us to a brewery at the top of the mountain for diner. They said the brewery only made enough beer for its own use. The views were spectacular and that we would have a great time. They did warn us that we would have to go with them because the road to the top of the mountain was so small it would be too dangerous for us to drive. They were not kidding about the road. I have seen driveways that were wider. The switchbacks to get to the top of the mountain made several people car sick, but when we got there it was worth it.  The kitchen had stopped serving hot food and we were given Smoked wild boar, Cheese, Pickles and peppers on wooden plates. It was something out of King Henry the VIII. It was also delicious. The beer was to die for and than they started with the Grappa again. We were all having an incredible time until I realized we had to drive back down that mountain.

After an uneventful trip down the mountain we went to the Stadium Restaurant owned by Simone for one last beer.  When we got there we were relieved to See Reggie, who had made it back by train. This was our last night in Merano and none of us wanted it to end. 4 a.m. came around and the night was over. We said tearful goodbyes to friends we will never forget.

Friday October 19, 2001

Check out time and who should be there to say good-bye, but Simone, Mauro and Rat Dog.  Daniela from the hotel came out with flowers for each of the women and a bottle of home made Procesca Wine for each of the men.  I have never been to a hotel that gave me gifts for coming there.

We had a 6-hour drive to Locarno Switzerland and were anxious to get started.

The drive through the Swiss Alps was breathtaking. However, the drive through the 16-mile long tunnel was a bit claustrophobic.

We had so much fun in Merano I did not hold out much hope for our time in Locarno. Little did I know how wrong I would be

Locarno Switzerland Saturday October 20, 2001

Locarno is not typical Switzerland. The palm trees in front of the hotel were the first thing to give it away. This town seemed to be more like Beverly Hills than Switzerland.  We stayed at the Beautiful Hotel Merlota alongside the lake. Everything about this place was impressive. When we checked in Chris our host met us at the counter and told us he would be back to collect us at 6 P.M. for our 7:30 p.m. game.

The game was played in an out door rink. Even though it was about fifty degrees outside the ice stayed in excellent condition.

This game started out just like all the others. We jumped out to an early lead that we ended up squandering. I guess that you cannot party for 10 days and expect to have anything left in the third period. The game ended up with Locarno showing us great mercy and winning 8-4.

After the game we went to the Rink Restaurant. It is the little building you can see in the background of the team photo above. What a beautiful little restaurant it was.  After dinner we were invited to a disco that one of the players owned. When we arrived at the disco it was smoky and loud. I did not think I was going to enjoy this at all, but than they showed us to a private room where we could play foosball and talk to our new friends. Eventually everyone made their way out onto the disco floor and was dancing. When I got upstairs about 0300 hours there were about 200 people dancing and only 11 of them were Americans. They were playing born in the USA by Bruce. Everyone had their hands up in the air and was singing as loud as they could. The Disc Jockey had taken out an American Flag and was running around with it. They followed this up with New York New York by Sinatra. Everyone was so supportive it was incredible. When they closed the bar everyone was shocked to learn that it was 0530. The picture below with the flag in it was taken at 530 in the morning just as we were leaving.

Saturday October 20, 2001

We left Locarno at noon on Saturday and enjoyed our 3-hour ride back to Zurich. The scenery was as always breathtaking.  After checking into the hotel we headed back to Zurich City for one last night of October Fest. After 9 days of party we were content to enjoy the pork and chicken dinner and the music and maybe a beer or two. We headed back to the hotel early. However, in the hotel lounge we met a retired cop from Texas who was now working for the U.N. as a Policeman in Kosovo. He kept us up pretty late telling tales of the places he had worked.

Sunday October 21, 2001

We headed for the airport at 9:00 a.m. to catch our 12 p.m. flight home. We arrived at J.F.K. on time and said our tearful goodbyes to our teammates. Another fantastic trip ended.