Nelson's Geoff Kinrade hoists the Swiss-A League trophy during a huge victory parade and celebration in downtown Bern over the weekend.

Nelson’s Kinrade celebrates Swiss-A championship

Former Nelson Minor Hockey defenceman shares experience of winning in hockey-crazy Bern and the celebration that has followed

Nelson’s Geoff Kinrade is soaking in the party atmosphere in Bern where his hockey team captured the Swiss-A League championship last week.

The speedy defenceman helped Bern capture the title last Wednesday before 16,000 faithful fans. Bern defeated Fribourg-Gotteron 5-1 on to capture the Swiss-A League post season title in a hard fought six-game series.

“Our team has the biggest crowd in all of Europe for hockey,” Kinrade told the Star via email when asked about the post-game celebration and atmosphere in the final game. “The crowds are very similar to European soccer crowds with the songs, chants, fireworks. It’s very emotional and out of control. It’s entertaining.“

The Swiss-A League is one of the top leagues in Europe and features many former NHL stars, young North American prospects and top-level European talent.

Bern came into the Swiss-A playoffs as the second seed after the regular season. In the first round Bern was pushed to limit by Geneva who built a 3-1 series lead. Bern stormed back to take the quarter-final in seven games. In the second round, it once again took seven games to get past Zug and earn a spot in the league’s final series.

Fribourg-Gotteron came into the post season as the regular season champions. The 4-2 series victory gave Bern their 13th Swiss-A League (also called the National League A) title since 1938.

Last week’s championship was the second major hockey title in the last four months for the former Nelson Minor Hockey standout and Nelson Junior Leafs defenceman. Kinrade was a member of Team Canada over the Christmas holidays and helped that club capture the Spengler Cup.

Kinrade also won a Calder Cup with the American Hockey League’s Binghampton Senators in 2011.

“It’s more similar to the Calder Cup because of the time and energy that you put into a playoff run,” Kinrade said when asked to compare the three championships.

“The quarter final and semi final rounds both went to seven games and we won in six games in the final. It seemed like it lasted forever. Especially since we [Bern] also went all the way to game seven of the finals last year and lost in the final seconds. The Spengler was more of a little bonus/hockey dream experience.”

After winning the Calder Cup with Binghampton in 2011, Kinrade made the decision to pack his bags and head across the Atlantic.

Kinrade started the 2011-12 season in the Czech League with Plzen HC where he played 34 games.

Bern called Kinrade up at the end of last season to help with injuries during the playoffs. When the season started back in September he stuck with Bern in a campaign that saw the team add many locked-out NHL players like John Tavares (who all returned after the NHL resumed).

Earlier this season Kinrade signed a two-year extension with Bern.

Kinrade grew up in the Nelson Minor Hockey system and led the Nelson Junior Leafs in scoring as a 16-year-old rookie. After two seasons with the Leafs, Kinrade made the jump to Junior A where he played two seasons with the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals. The speedy blueliner then spent four seasons of NCAA college hockey with Michigan Tech.

Upon graduating from college, Kinrade signed on with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL and played his first (and at this point only) NHL game late in the 2008-09 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

Kinrade signed with the Ottawa Senators for the 2009-10 season, attended their training camp and was assigned to the Binghampton farm team.

In the last week, Kinrade has been soaking in the celebration in hockey-crazy Bern where the scene resembles that of a team winning the Stanley Cup in North America.

“It’s pretty close to that I would say,” said Kinrade. “The entire downtown of the city was shut down for our parade and about 25,000 to 30,000 people were in the streets. It was a pretty cool show.”

Very few Canadian kids get to play professional hockey. Even less get an opportunity to capture three major hockey championships in their career. The 27-year-old said he feels fortunate to have accomplished what he has so far in the sport.

“I’ve been extremely lucky and have been able to play on some great teams,” he said. “And hopefully I’ve had something to do with the reason my teams are winning.”

Kinrade plans on travelling and seeing some friends over the next few months while he continues to train.

“And loads of rest, since I’ve been all the way to the finals three years in a row now,” he said.

For more photos from the championship and earlier in the season check out Kinrade’s Facebook page here.

Check out the atmosphere at the final game in this video.

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