Michael Kistler, team host at the Spengler Cup

In normal life, Michael Kistler, Head of Marketing Communication & E-Business, deals with topics such as the RhB sales platform, social media and websites. But between Christmas and New Year, his world turns upside down.

Tanja Thaler, Communications expert, 20. December 2021

Between Christmas and New Year, Michael Kistler usually spends his days off work as team host in Davos at the Spengler Cup. And preferably with his great love: the Ambrì-Piotta Hockey Club. Unfortunately, everything turned out differently this year because HC Ambrì-Piotta had to go into quarantine and will not be at the Spengler Cup. Nevertheless, we ask him ten questions today about his mission in Davos.

1 What does ice hockey mean to you?

Ice hockey is the greatest sport in the world and has fascinated me since my godfather, who has been an Ambrì fan for more than 50 years, infected me with the blue-and-white virus. I saw my first game in the “Valascia” some 40 years ago. At that time, the stadium in Ambrì had only just had a roof put on it and was open on both sides. Even though I didn’t understand the game, I knew I had to shout “Forza Ambrì”. Even then I would watch the games of the Spengler Cup year after year and that’s how I got to know teams like Dukla Jihlava and Spartak Moscow.

2 Which teams have you had the pleasure of working for at the Spengler Cup and how long have you been working as a team host?

I have been a team host since 2014 and have already supported six teams. 2017 was a special year for me with the Swiss national team and, of course, 2019 with HC Ambrì-Piotta. 

I have loved the Swiss national team for years and I have already enjoyed more than 25 world championships on site. So getting to look after them at the Spengler Cup was an absolute highlight, which seemed unbeatable... until HC Ambrì-Piotta came along.

3 What exactly does a team host do?

The team host primarily takes care of everything the team needs during the tournament in Davos and is generally available 24 hours a day. This involves simple things, such as tips for a restaurant or an excursion, but also organising additional tickets, transfers, on-ice slots and meal requests in the hotel. The team host is with the team before, during and after the match, and helps in the dressing room or on the boards. 

Of course, a team host also has access here: the cabin of Awtomobilist Jekaterinburg at the Spengler Cup.

4 Are there any parallels between your work at RhB and your work as a team host?

There are few parallels in terms of content, but it is quite comparable in terms of the need for flexibility and things changing at short notice. At RhB in Marketing Communication and as a team host, I have to react very quickly to changed situations and make decisions. 

5 Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy a few days off between Christmas and New Year and watch the games in comfort on TV?

No, definitely not! I just love being a team host and it is something that gives me a lot of energy and pleasure. Weeks before it actually happens, I’m already looking forward to my time in Davos and am happy to do without a few traditional days off just to be there. 

6 Do you have anecdotes from the teams that you can share with us?

Every team host can tell their own personal anecdotes. In my first year as a team host, I had the privilege of taking care of the KHL team Salavat Yulaev Ufa. These stars from Russia travelled with their entire family and had some special requests. The women really wanted to go shopping in Milan and it was only after I had clarified the price of a helicopter flight that they decided to go on a trip to St. Moritz instead. I also had to organise a Russian-speaking, private snowboard instructor. And I have particularly fond memories of the two Christmas parties with the Swiss national team and the last Spengler Cup with HC Ambrì-Piotta. The players, their wives and girlfriends, the children and the entire staff were there and it was like a big family celebration that I was also able to attend. 

7 Have there been some difficult moments, too?

Personally, I haven’t experienced any really bad moments to date. However, there are also injuries at the Spengler Cup and I’ll never forget the bad luck of Gregory Sciaroni, who grew up in Ambrì by the way. Sciaroni was injured at the 2015 and 2016 tournaments – and the special thing was that both times it was in the December 30 game. In 2015, he suffered a serious wrist injury in a duel on the boards, after which he had a worrying time wondering whether he would actually be able to continue his career. Luckily, he still plays in the National League and may be back in Ambrì soon.

8 Who decides which team you get to coach?

The team is selected jointly. As the person responsible for all team hosts, I am allowed to make a decision in the event of non-agreement. If a team host has already looked after a team, they usually keep it. Marcel Enkerli, for example, has taken care of Team Canada for many years. I would have been in charge of HC Ambrì-Piotta this year and was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the team has to go into quarantine and consequently I can't be at this year's Spengler Cup either.

Ambrì-Piotta Hockey Club at the Spengler Cup in Davos

During UBS Kids Day - the team host is always there as well.

9 What would you have been most looking forward to?

For me, it would have been a return to Davos. Like coming home to the Spengler Cup family. Because you know each other and look forward to the reunion. Unfortunately, the participation of HC Ambrì-Piotta does not work out this year. Otherwise, many friends and acquaintances from the environment of my heart club would have been there this year - maybe it will work out next year! 

10 Your tip: Who is going to win the Spengler Cup 2021?

If HC Ambrì-Piotta would have played, then of course this team, who else? :) No, I’m betting on Frölunda. The Swedish League is very strong and Frölunda is a top team. They have proven this time and again in the Champions Hockey League, which they have already won four times.

What's next? At the Spengler Cup 2021 Michael Kistler will now take over the team "Bern Selection". So he can still be there as a team host. 

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