Hans Kossman never dreamed he had a future in hockey.
Now, nearly 30 years later, the Smithers Minor Hockey Association product and current HC Fribourg-Gottéron Swiss National League A (their highest division) head coach is coming off his team’s first appearance at the Spengler Cup.
The Spengler Cup is hosted by top-tier Swiss team HC Davos and is held each year between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Kossman’s team earned an invitation to the tournament in celebration of HC Fribourg-Gottéron’s 75th anniversary.
The team earned a 2-2 record at the Spengler Cup, first defeating the Russians 4-1 and ending with a 5-1 loss against Canada in the semi-finals.
“They had some top guns from the NHL,” Kossman said.
“They were too good.”
Because of the NHL lockout, which consumed 113 days of the regular-season schedule, Kossman’s team featured a slew of NHL regulars including Vancouver Canucks starter Cory Schneider.
Unfortunately, Fribourg-Gottéron lost both Spengler Cup games with Schneider in net.
“It was a terrific experience to coach these guys and we had a great tournament,” said Kossman.
Kossman grew up playing minor hockey in Smithers, but stopped after Midget, never believing the sport would lead to anything.
After graduation, he spent two years working and travelling before attending BCIT where he casually played hockey again.
After spotting an advertisement in The Swiss Canadian Review where an agent was looking for Canadian hockey players with Swiss passports, Kossman applied and after a tryout in Montreal earned a spot on a Second Division team out of Geneva.
Just three months later, the team went bankrupt and Kossman came back to Canada, working in Whistler during summers as a land surveyor.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, after a phone call from former NHL coach Andy Murray who was coaching in Switzerland, that Kossman became a professional hockey player.
Starting out with a Third Division team, Kossman worked his way up to Second Division, eventually spending 11 years as a player.
“I lost too many years between 18-22 with not playing serious hockey to arrive in the First Division,” he admitted.
Once his playing days were over, Kossman landed a position coaching a Third Division team in Switzerland.
His 17-year coaching career has included time with teams in the top three divisions.
Oscar’s Source for Sports owner Steve Hidber grew up with Kossman (“I skied and he played hockey.”) and said his success is due largely to the fact he’s not afraid of a little hard work.
“He’s very focused and competitive,” Hidber said.
“His inner drive is very high and he has worked hard to be successful.”
Last year, Kossman was given his first opportunity as a head coach in the National League A and he’s made the most of it, leading his squad to a third-place finish last year and to the top of the league standings in the current season.
“It’s taken me 27 years to get here but it has all been tremendous.
“I have been very blessed with my career and I love the lifestyle here in Europe.
“It truly has been a great ride.”
After 28 years living abroad, Kossman still has family ties that bring him back to the Bulkley Valley each summer and he has nothing but fond memories of his time growing up here.
“I still love coming back to enjoy the fishing and all the great outdoors the region has to offer.”