In nearly two decades, the Ontario coach and sports director has left his mark on Swiss hockey. Its exclusion from GE Servette allows us to immerse ourselves in our memories.
- Emmanuel Favre, Gregory Beaud
When you view these images from 2007 and hear the words vociferated by Chris McSorley to his players, opponents and his “favorite” referee Danny Kurmann – “motherfuckers”, “heartbeat …” and so on. – we can see that the GE Servette coach maintained permanent pressure on all the players in a match. Sometimes even going beyond the limits, as in the famous scene of the door, made famous by the film “The Rules of the Game”.
At the end of winter 2004, the Eagles played a tense quarter-final against Ambri-Piotta. At the end of Act III lost in Leventine, McSorley designates the culprits. Three attackers without much experience in this type of duel: Yvan Benoît (18 years old), Kevin Romy (19 years old), and Thomas Deruns (22 years old). The penalty: obligation to wear a facial protection grid until the end of the series. Explanation of the chief: young people are afraid to go into contact and run the risk of being less attractive with scars. GE Servette ends up winning the series 4-3.
In the McSorley family, one episode was particularly striking. In Act II of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final between Montreal and Los Angeles, Marty, Chris’ brother, had precipitated the Kings defeat because he used a cane with illegal bending. Sanctioned by two minutes of penalties, he had allowed the Canadian to reverse the series and lift a 24th trophy. In Switzerland, there was an unwritten law (a kind of gentlemen’s agreement): we do not measure opposing sticks. The coach of GE Servette never complied and brandished this card on a few occasions to try to erase a deficit in the last minutes. The most famous scene: in 2005, the year of the NHL lockout, he stirred up a concert of whistles and abuse in Zug after having the nerve to use this trick authorized by the regulations.
When he gestured behind the bench of the Eagles, Chris McSorley brought a breath of fresh air in a corporation often animated by an excess of caution. His team was led 0-2 in the 19th minute and obtained a power-play: on a few occasions, he did not hesitate to replace his goalkeeper with a sixth field player. His formation was in a similar situation five minutes before the horn sounded: rebelote. Boldness did not always lead to the desired result, but it did have the merit of showing that McSorley was a coach who wanted victory more than his colleagues.
Chris McSorley had revealed it to us once he had ceded his post of head coach of GE Servette to Patrick Emond: during the play-offs, he had occasionally destabilized his opponents with tricks that escaped the gaze of the public. Once, he had repainted the locker room of his opponents in pink, just to immerse them in a fairytale environment. Another time, posted in an adjacent locker room, he had played lullabies by pressing the “max” button on the speaker. A few times, on the carpet between the ice and the locker room of his opponents, sand had been discreetly placed in order to make the blades less sharp.
In the costume of the sports director, before he was chained to his desk, Chris McSorley also revolutionized the management of the transfer market. His challenge: to try to race with the cannons of the league with a thinner envelope. His method: crisscross Switzerland and North America with scouts, whose mission was to find hidden cards. History has shown that a host of young people, almost unknown when they arrived at Les Vernets, have forged an identity and helped to establish GE Servette in the circle of outsiders in the big league. Romy, Deruns, Gobbi, Almond, LeCoultre, Wick, Vukovic or Suri are just a few names in the list.
When an opposing sporting director’s phone read “Chris McSorley,” he knew to be wary. The trick was never far away. An extraordinary seller, legend has it that the Ontarian handed over a dumpster of sand to a group of Tuaregs. The Canadian has pulled off several smoldering hits in the market. The most famous? Exchange Romain Loeffel for John Fritsche and Jeremie Kamerzin. While the former became the cornerstone of its defense, the other two played marginal roles on the side of Saint-Leonard. We can also mention the times when he realized that some of his players were on the decline and “parked” them with a rival. Thomas Deruns (Berne) or John Gobbi (Zurich) are probably the two best examples.
One scene alone sums up the interpersonal skills of “CMS”. A colleague almost exclusively following football met him for the first time during a meal in the pub next to the ice rink. When it comes to introducing him to “the boss”, the latter shakes his hand and gives him a “Hi!” Nice to see you again! ” (“Hi, nice to see you again”). Big smile on his face, he treated him like an old friend. In two minutes, the charm had operated. Chris McSorley is also an innate ability to pocket people.
When it came time to talk about ice hockey, he was rarely sentimental. Its players were regularly rated according to several criteria. Each match was dissected and the performances coldly criticized. This evaluation system allowed him to know who was still bringing him something and who was becoming superfluous. Long before the recent emergence of statistics in ice hockey, Chris McSorley had sensed the advantage it could give him.
Chris McSorley’s excesses can also be explained, if not above all, by an element that is more a personal feeling than a tangible element: the now ex-coach and sports director of GE Servette was, is and will be a lover of his sport, meticulous as a watchmaker when it comes to making adjustments. Moreover, often, when we ask him the time, he would tell us the history of watchmaking.