Just like that, with a (let’s say it!) sad press release, Chris McSorley’s era in Genève came basically to an end for real. The club said in its press release that Chris will remain at disposal for a position that has yet to be defined… but there is no denying that nothing will be the same anymore.
— Geneve-Servette HC (@officialGSHC) July 24, 2020
Let’s start from the end, that is from the sentence we want to use to finish this article: only the title was missing. A title that, let’s face it, would have been very deserved.
Chris McSorley arrived in Genève on the eve of the 2001-02 season, when ice hockey was almost considered a “niche-sport” in the city of Calvin. After all, the Eagles have been missing from the top tier of Swiss hockey since almost 30 years and more precisely since the relegation of 1975.
You can’t say that Genève Servette has never been a good club. The Eagles even won the Swiss Cup twice (1959, 1975). The truth was, however, that ice hockey was always a popular minority sport. The Eagles in fact, were regularly put in second place in the city where football and Servette stayed in the spotlight.
But let’s get back to the year 2001. We think it’s safe to say that a new era started in 2001 on the shores of the Lake of Genève. The Chris McSorley’s era. From that moment on, everything changed.
Genève Servette was still in NLB in 2001 but earned the promotion to the NLA at the end of the first season with Chris McSorley as the head coach.
Actually, things got off pretty bad. The first official game of Chris as the head coach of the Eagles took place on September 15th, 2001, at les Vernets (in front of 2’450 fans…) when the team suffered a 1-0 home defeat against Olten. The second game? Another defeat, this time it was a 6-5 overtime defeat suffered in Sierre where nevertheless Igor Fedulov scored the first goal of the McSorley’s era. These two defeats, however, were 2 of the only few suffered during that season. The first win came at game day 3 when Servette earned a 6-3 home win against the GCK Lions thanks to the goals scored by Pascal Schaller (2), Alain Reymond (2), Igor Fedulov, Todd Richards, Pierre-Alain Ançay annd Xavier Gattuso. And then…
And then, firstly the team dominated the NLB regular season, then won the NLB title (establishing the record as the first Swiss team unbeaten in the post-season) and finally defeated 4-0 Chur in the League Qualification series. The decisive game was played on April 4th, 2002, in Chur, where Genève Servette earned a 4-0 road win thanks to Todd Richards, Mario Schocher, Igor Fedulov and Chris Lindberg.
That was a success! A success under the name of Chris McSorley and the Anschutz group.
The Anschutz group declared that wanted to invest on the long term in Genève. Chris McSorley for his part created a team in his own image, an aggressive and united team. Here, aggressiveness and unity, two characteristics that have been distinguishing Genève Servette in the last 20 years of history. With ups and downs, obviously. But the truth is that Genève Servette has almost always been a very tough nut to crack in the NLA, especially during the post-season and when it really mattered.
Let us not beat around the bush though. The team’s aggressive style also garnered enmity from other teams’ fans. But meanwhile, Genève Servette also became a well-respected team. A team that has been able to establish itself at the highest levels of Swiss hockey and come so close to winning the Swiss Champion title twice. In 2008 and 2010, when it suffered two defeats at the final stage of the season against the ZSC Lions and Bern.
Again, there is no denying that Chris McSorley played a key role for the results of this club. A club that was also able to win the Spengler Cup twice (2013, 2014), and to become Silver Medallist at the end of the 2017 Swiss Cup.
Chris has always been able to create a team that was a tough nut to crack and not only because of the aggressive style of play. Perhaps the Eagles never played “Champagne hockey” but we personally always appreciated the typical Canadian style…
We always appreciated that much more compared to the Finnish style. However, this is purely our personal opinion.
Chris McSorley is that kind of a guy that you either love or “hate”, and that can be defined as sharp as a tack. He’s almost always been able to sign the right players, especially when it comes to imports. He always knew when it was time to let a player go. He’s almost always been able to build teams capable of being great at the key moments.
It’s certainly no accident that, since 2002 and the comeback to the NLA, the Eagles have missed the playoffs only twice.
The greatest achievement, however, was probably the one that he made Genève a “hockey city”, increasing incredibly the average attendance!
Again, Chris McSorley played a key role. He spent 19 years in Genève. 17 years as the head coach of the team and 19 years as the team’s GM. Let us not forget, moreover, that he was also the part-owner of the organization between 2005 and 2014.
We mean, we’re talking about a real legend of the Eagles. Maybe, and probably not even maybe, he was the most influential character in the history of the club based in the city of Calvin.
A guy, a man, that in fact would be a great addition to each professional club in Switzerland, in our opinion. He can work as a coach, as GM, as a consultant. You name it. A guy, a man, that wrote history in Genève… where only the title was missing. A title that, let’s face it, would have been deserved.
All the best for your future Chris. In Genève or anywhere else. You’re a legend, pure and simple.
One word only: RESPECT!