Lausanne HC are the rising stars of Swiss hockey. Between 2005 and 2013, the club was in the doldrums, playing in the country's second tier. However, the future is bright. A top-three Regular Season finish, a new arena and their debut appearance in the Champions Hockey League show that the club is moving in the right direction.
At the heart of Lausanne’s success is 27-year-old forward Joël Vermin. The Swiss sniper was just one of eight players in the NLA to score 20 or more goals last season and has become one of the elite Swiss forwards playing domestically.
Lausanne HC reached the NLA Semi-Finals, become losing to beaten Finalists EV Zug. Reflecting on his season, Vermin commented, “I think we had a bit of a rough start. I think we lost nine in a row. But after that we really picked up. We had a really good season and finished Top 4. That was our goal at the beginning of the season.”
“In the Playoffs we managed to win the first round, and then unfortunately we fell short against Zug. They’re a good team, but for sure there’s some room for improvement for next season.”
"Our goal should be Top 4"
Lausanne HC forward Joël Vermin
Vermin’s disappointment at losing to Zug highlights the optimism and raised expectations which have come with increased investment and a glut of talented players, including Vermin, joining the team.
“We knew that on paper we had a good team and we should definitely looking forward and our goal should be Top 4. It shows the ambitions that this club has, that we for sure want to look to continue being a Top Four team”, the Frauenkappelen native said.
Under the stewardship of Finnish head coach, Ville Peltonen, Lausanne HC have adopted a Scandinavian style of play which stresses defensive responsibility and a team ethos.
“I think we play a Scandinavian style of hockey. We are patient, we don’t run around at times. We have great individuals that can make plays, dangle guys, but the bottom line is that we play as a team, and we want to play as a team”, said Vermin.
However, Vermin was a crucial part of the team’s offence, alongside former NHLer Dustin Jeffrey. Together they combined for 81 Regular Season points, and a further 18 in the Playoffs.
Reflecting on his individual plaudits, Vermin recognised the role of his teammates. “I think that the hard-work that I’ve put in over the years really paid off. I had really really good linemates as well, you can never underestimate that”, said Vermin.
“I was playing for the most part with Dustin Jeffrey. He’s an unbelievable player, he sees the game so well that sometimes it was easy for me to score. The overall success that the team had goes together with my personal success. I’m a big believer that if the team is successful, then every individual is playing successfully as well, and I think that was the case last year”, commented the 27-year-old.
Lausanne have managed to keep this core together and bolster their squad with the signings of former NHLers Josh Jooris (from Toronto Marlies) and Cody Almond (Genève-Servette), along with promising young defenceman Fabian Heldner (HC Davos).
“You see that teams which are successful each year, the core stays the same”, commented Vermin. “I’m pretty confident that with all the signings we’ve made for next season that we will find the things that maybe we were missing last season. I can’t wait to see what next season brings”.
Vermin played his entire junior hockey in Switzerland, but made the move to North America in 2014 to chase his NHL dreams. A 7th round pick for the Tampa Bay Lightning, he travelled across the Atlantic and played 24 games for the Florida side, splitting time with their AHL affiliate - Syracuse Crunch.
“It was an unbelievable experience even though I didn’t manage to stay in the NHL”, said Vermin. I learned a lot, made a lot of new friends, and it was overall a great experience. I also grew as a human being as well, being far away from home. The game on the ice is also different so you have to adapt and focus on those details even more than on the bigger surface. I really benefitted from every part of my life and hockey over the course of those three years”.
Lausanne HC managed to sign Vermin on his return to Switzerland in 2017/18. “I really like the concept they had”, he said. “I really liked that they wanted to grow, that they wanted to be a top team in the Swiss league. Lausanne is a beautiful city as well, on a beautiful lake, so those things got me to sign there.”
Along with the club’s on-ice success, Lausanne HC will look to continue their growth by moving into a new 9,600-seater arena. The Vaudoise Aréna, currently under construction, will also play host to the 2020 IIHF World Championships.
Speaking of his excitement of the move, Vermin said, “It shows the ambitions that this club has. When I left for North America, Lausanne was pretty much a team on the bubble of making the playoffs, and now everyone is expecting us to make Playoffs and being a Top 4 team. Everybody is hyped up. I can’t wait to play in the new rink”.
"We all are really excited to play in the CHL"
Lausanne HC forward Joël Vermin
So, domestic success, a new arena… Time to conquer Europe? Lausanne HC will make their Champions Hockey League debut in 2019/20 and Vermin shared his thoughts on taking part in this prestigious competition.
“It will be really nice to see other teams, what they do, how they play hockey”, said the forward.
“It’s very interesting and I think we all are really excited to play in the CHL. It’s also a big honour as there are lots of good teams there. It’s a tough competition and for sure as a hockey player, every game you play you want to win.”
Speaking of this group, Vermin commented, “We know that they qualified for CHL, so they’re going to be very good teams and we need to be ready. It’s nice for us to see their rinks and get to know the cities as well. It’s going to be very interesting for us.”
However, Vermin stressed that Lausanne HC will not be in the CHL just to make up the numbers.
“For sure, we’re participating to win”, he concluded. “Obviously you have to go step-by-step, but we’re going to be prepared and we want to go as far as we can.”