The Alliance of European Hockey Clubs welcomes Swiss EHC Visp as our member #89. The aspiring club from Canton Wallis boasts the new Lonza Arena and the club makes no secret that it eventually plans for promotion to Switzerland’s top National League.
First some basics: Visp (pronounced Fischp) is a town of around 8000 inhabitants in the southern Swiss Canton of Wallis (German) or Valais (French). Although the Canton is predominantly French-speaking (almost 70%), the town of Visp has a German-speaking majority.
But regardless of language or culture, what unites the inhabitants in the valley of the river Rhône is hockey, which has a hundred years of tradition in southwestern Switzerland. EHC Visp was founded in 1941 and the club was promoted to the top national league in 1959. Three years later, EHC Visp celebrated its greatest victory. Following a 3-0 win against HC Davos on 3 February 1962, Visp became Swiss champion.
This was during the era when Swiss hockey was dominated by teams from the mountain regions, with clubs like Davos, Arosa and Villars being the most successful, before the modern era saw clubs from the major cities rising to prominence. So the 1962 title remains as Visp’s lone championship, along with the 1964 Swiss Cup win.
After returning from the third-tier 1. League in 1999, a new era in the history of the club began with the founding of the EHC Visp Sport AG, a shareholding company. Last year, in September 2019, EHC Visp took the next major step when they left behind the old Litternahalle (from 1979) and entered the new Lonza Arena, with a capacity of 5000.
“We are thrilled to welcome EHC Visp to the alliance,” said E.H.C. Managing Director Szymon Szemberg. “From the very beginning when we founded the organization we said that we are for the elite, but we are not elitist. Just as it is important to have Europe’s major clubs with us like Frölunda, Zurich, Eisbären Berlin and Kärpät, it is equally important that we welcome ambitious and aspiring clubs like EHC Visp, a club that wants to reach the next level.”
“We like the opportunity to be part of an organization that wants to play a role in the development of professional hockey in Europe,” said Sébastien Pico, the CEO of EHC Visp. “Today’s elite hockey is run a totally different way than what the case was in the 80s or even in the 90s and being part of the E.H.C. Alliance gives our club an opportunity to both follow and hopefully also to have influence in the development.”
The Wallis-based club also assumes responsibility for youth development. Below the EHC Visp pro team, the organization also includes 13 youth development teams with around 250 active players. As well as a hockey school with 120 young players. Visp finished fourth in the Swiss League last season before the pandemic stopped play. The team is led by Finnish coaching veteran Matti Alatalo, who has spent many years in Switzerland, but Alatalo also has coached Finnish clubs and E.H.C. members JYP Jyväskylä, HPK Hämeenlinna and Kärpät Oulu between 2003 and 2010.
FOOTNOTE: Switzerland’s top tier league is called National League. The 2nd tier league is the Swiss League.