Il arrive au Hallenstadion d’afficher complet, comme lors de ce match contre Berne. Mais rarement les spectateurs ne décollent de leur siège.

Ice Hockey – The Hallenstadion is almost over, and that’s good!

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Thursday’s match between ZSC Lions and Biel, in the quarter-finals of the play-offs, could be the last in the Zurich hall, after 72 years.

It happens at the Hallenstadion to show full, as during this match against Bern. But rarely do the spectators take off from their seats.

Vedi Galijas/freshfocus

If HC Biel finds the key, wins Thursday evening in Zurich and completes the series two days later, then it will be over between the Hallenstadion and ice hockey. If the ZSC Lions cross the Zealand obstacle to advance towards a glorious spring, the story will last a few days or weeks longer. But whatever happens, the august Zurich room will no longer receive the puck next season. A page of 72 years of history will turn.

There is nostalgia, of course, when we think back to this match against Arosa (5-5) on November 18, 1950, which was the first to be played under roof in Switzerland. Seven league titles, three relegations, glorious pages and dark tunnels: Zurich and its supporters have known it all between these old walls, which remained standing while losing a bit of their soul during the 2004-05 refurbishment. On the other hand, to put it a bit bluntly, we will not regret seeing the “Z” evolve in another setting – the Swiss Life Arena, in Altstetten.

Because the Hallenstadion, this old diva that emerged from the ground at the end of 1939, never completely gave itself to ice hockey.

End of life fridge

Last Sunday again, during the third act of this quarter-final between the Lions and Biel, the room sometimes looked like a fridge at the end of its life. It was lukewarm there and despite the tribute paid via banners to the hall and its link with the club (this match could already have been the last), no palpable emotion ran through the stands. During the match, exciting despite the absence of a goal, we saw sausages turn white, raclettes freeze and fries get bogged down in mayonnaise. But people get up from their seats too padded, very few. Here we come to the show. Here, we doze a little. Until the moment when the winning goal of the 89th fell, even if some had already left.

More than 9000 people in the room and at times you can hear the flies flying – sadness. “The Hallenstadion, it can become electric, but never before the final”, slips us an insider. Sunday, we do not say that the show was worth the 1000 seats broken at the Rolling Stones concert in April 1967. But the suspense was total, the match exciting, and the barometer of emotions in the stands remained flat. There are many real fans at the Hallenstadion. With their jersey, their scarf, which give voice and clap their hands. But they are not behind the goals, close to the ice, as in other rinks. They are relegated to a corner of the balcony, perched, almost isolated. The Hallenstadion audience is also a matter of class(es).

Dalai Lama and Folies Bergere

From Bob Marley to the Dalai Lama, via Louis Armstrong (only concert in Switzerland in 1959), Madonna and Muhammad Ali, the most famous have performed within these light brick walls. And when the Folies Bergère performed their first performances abroad there in 1954, local authorities and women’s groups ensured that the girls covered up a bit more than usual. At the Hallenstadion, we have manners. And when we play hockey there, the “populos”, the noisy and the untimely are put away.

Soon, perhaps after Thursday night’s game against Biel, we won’t be playing hockey at all in the legendary hall of Oerlikon, which will live its life elsewhere. Out of respect, we will shed a tear over seven decades. But the page that is turning now makes it possible to nourish a mad hope: and if there was a little atmosphere at the matches of the ZSC Lions, from next September?

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