KLOTEN, Switzerland – Mark Messier learned plenty from his coaching debut Tuesday night, both from watching the players before him and the feeling of standing behind them.
Serge Aubin scored once and set up two other goals to lead a team of Canadian hockey players based in Europe past Switzerland 6-2 in the Swiss Challenge.
The NHL great liked a lot of what he saw, and admitted he still has “many things, for sure” to figure out as a coach.
“There is a lot going on behind the bench,” he said. “You have to stay focused, you’re trying to internalize many things as the game goes on, matchups or mismatches, decisions on combinations, strategies, making adjustments, so there’s a lot going on.
“If you’re not playing it’s probably the closest you’re going to get to the game again. From that regard it was nice being down at the ice level again.”
Messier has a few more kicks at can coming up, as he’ll lead a different group of players into the Deutschland Cup in Munich later this week before returning to Switzerland for the Spengler Cup next month.
The Swiss Challenge is a one-off game although several of the players on the team are candidates for the Spengler Cup.
“We spent three days here with this group and now I’m going to be introduced to a whole brand new team, basically starting over again,” Messier said laughing. “It was a great three days here and I think we covered a lot of ground and got ourselves a good foundation for the Spengler.
“And now we’ll go to Munich and try to do the same thing in a short amount of time and get ourselves prepared for the Deutschland.”
Josh Holden and Micki Dupont, with a goal and an assist each, Shawn Heins, Martin Kariya and Mark Bell also scored for the Canadians.
Fabian Schnyder and Simon Bodenmann replied for Switzerland.
Messier rolled four lines against Switzerland, which trailed 4-0 after two periods, and played blocks of five players as a way to get a sense of who plays well with who.
Matt Zaba and Frederic Cloutier split duties in goal.
“Our whole entire team played well,” he said.
Messier turned to coaching after serving as Canada’s general manager at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in May, when the national team finished seventh.
He had the tough task of trying to pick a team in an Olympic year and Hockey Canada decided not to ask anyone from the gold-medal winning squad in Vancouver to play.
The stint behind the bench is a way for him to build his skill-set, with the next test coming Friday in the Deutschland Cup against Germany.
The Canadians will also play Switzerland and Slovakia there, and Messier will draw upon his experience Tuesday.
“It went well,” said Messier. “Any time you win (there’s) not too much to complain about. . . .
“The great thing about the game is this is probably my 45th year of organized hockey and (I’m) still learning. That keeps it exciting.”