International Ice Hockey Federation

My name is Fust, John Fust

My name is Fust, John Fust

Former agent on a mission with Switzerland

Published 27.12.2014 09:45 GMT-5 | Author Martin Merk
My name is Fust, John Fust
John Fust at a Swiss practice at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Image
On Tuesday John Fust came back to his roots in Montreal for the last exhibition game. The secret-agent-turned-coach is on a mission with the Swiss U20 team.

Fust was born in Montreal 42 years ago and showcases his Swiss heritage not only in his name. It was his grandparents who moved from Switzerland to Montreal in the 1920s. Already when Fust visited the country for holidays as a 12-year-old he thought he would be playing hockey there.

Indeed, hockey brought him to the land of his ancestors and now back to Canada for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and for Switzerland’s last exhibition game against Canada even to his hometown of Montreal.

“It’s an experience to come back in this capacity. I was born in Montreal, raised here and then I lived 20 years in Toronto, so this tournament is definitely a homecoming for me and my family,” Fust said after the game that Canada won 6-0. “Certainly to be in the Bell Centre was a special moment for me, but there is a lot of work to be done.”

It’s probably thanks to the fact that we grew up in Montreal, which he describes as the probably hockey-maddest city in the world, that he became a hockey player and coach.

“I had the typical Montreal boyhood life. In winter we played hockey and in summer baseball and soccer. It’s part of a culture. We had a big hockey rink in the park next to us. I put my skates on in the house and skated over the frozen street to the park and when it was dark I was called to go home,” he said about his childhood.

“It was a fantastic way to grow up and I wish the Swiss kids would be able to have a taste of what that type of upbringing is because it makes you hockey-mad and it’s certainly a big reason why hockey is a passion in my life.”

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After graduating from Princeton University in 1994 Fust started his career as a professional player in the Swiss B-league for Martigny, Olten, Herisau and Langnau before moving up to the National League A in 1998 with Langnau, located in the Emmental valley where Switzerland’s famous cheese with the holes originally comes from. He played six years in Switzerland’s top league and after that added two additional seasons in the NLB with Forward Morges and HC Sierre.

“After university I had offers to play in Switzerland. I took it one year at a time and it ended up with a 12-year playing career,” he said.

After ending his playing career in 2006 he returned to Ottawa with his family and began a different sort of career to one day becoming a secret agent. He started his five-year education at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and wanted to gain distance from hockey after some tough last years although he volunteered as an assistant coach of a university team.

It was a new life in which even his family and closest friends weren’t allowed to know what exactly he was doing undercover. Even today he wouldn’t unveil too much. “I was just working for the government,” he said with a bright smile.

“I had applied and was accepted by CSIS. I started the process of a new life but the story is Martin Gerber, who was a teammate of mine in Langnau and was the Ottawa Senators goalie at that time, had lunch with me and an agent who was looking for a coach. He handed me the phone and ten minutes later I had the job and decided to give coaching a one-year trial.”

In 2007 he took over B-league team EHC Visp. He led the team to first place in 2010 and got a contract in the NLA the same year with his old team from Langnau. It was Fust who led the team to the playoffs for the first and so far only time in history in 2011 before being released in his third year.

For 2013/14 he moved to league rival Lausanne and worked as an assistant coach for Heinz Ehlers, the father of Nikolaj Ehlers, Denmark’s top prospect at the World Juniors. But when he had the chance for more he accepted a new challenge with the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation and signed as assistant to Glen Hanlon with the men’s national team and as head coach of the U20 national team.

And here he is, preparing for the first game in Toronto. His team looks surprisingly young with more than half of the team consisting of underage players including all three goaltenders.

“The young generation is well represented in our team and certainly games like the one against Canada are important that we can judge where we are and where we need to go,” Fust said.

“I certainly think the game changed when the physical part started. Canada picked up their pace and their physical play and we didn’t react very well to it and that’s something we as a young team have to be able to take and to give back. Consistency is something to work on.”

Although the result wasn’t the best publicity for the team, it consists of promising young players who already made the top senior league as 17- or 18-year-olds, of two first-round draft picks and one who has already made an NHL team with San Jose Sharks, defenceman Mirco Muller.

“In our eyes we have even two NHL players. Kevin Fiala is doing very well in the Swedish league and I expect him to maybe take the step to the NHL next year,” Fust said. “And Mirco (Muller) brings a lot of stability behind. But to win we have to be a team and play as a team.”

The first chance to do so comes on Saturday in the late game at Air Canada Centre against the Czech Republic.


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