Having competed with the Swiss national team at three consecutive Winter Games competitions, Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, Angela (Angi) Frautschi was part of a progressive rise to an elite status as one of the world’s premier hockey nations. Also holding multiple appearances at the IIHF Women’s World Championships, the hallmark of her storied career in the Swiss jersey is highlighted by the bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Games.
From a professional standpoint, Frautschi also established herself as a mainstay with the ZSC Lions Frauen, highlighted by back-to-back seasons of 21 points, along with four seasons of double digit point totals. Among her international teammates with the Lions included a group of accomplished Canadians such as Brittaney Maschmeyer, Jaclyn Hawkins, Isabel Menard and Sarah Murray, among others. She would also help the club capture their first championship in Swiss league history, achieving the milestone in 2011.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, Frautschi would engage into a new chapter in her career, making the adjustment from player to coach. Pulling double duty as an assistant coach with both ZSC Lions and the Swiss national women’s team, her acumen allows her the opportunity to be a tremendous asset to both teams, while simultaneously serving as a meaningful mentor.
With elite female competitors on both sides of the Atlantic making the transition from player to coach, Frautschi is part of an empowering generation helping to add a new legacy to the game. Also providing a key influence for Frautschi is a familiar face in Swiss head coach Daniela Diaz, a former teammate on the Swiss national team at the 2006 Torino Winter Games.
Holding the unique distinction of serving in a full-time role for the first time in national team history, Diaz started in this historic capacity since June 1, 2016. Diaz, whose brother Raphael skates for the New York Rangers, is highly familiar at the club level with Frautschi, having served as her head coach for several seasons with the ZSC Lions.
Although hanging up her skates brought with it many powerful and emotional elements for Frautschi, the opportunity to keep adding to her proud hockey legacy as a coach only enhances her enjoyment of the game, while remaining familiar to the thrill of competition and absorbing the feeling of family that comes with any team culture. Understandably, the transition brought with it some visceral feelings, including aspects that shall be missed from active competition,
“I miss the camaraderie the most. I miss the bonds with my teammates and going through all of the emotions, both highs and lows, with them. That is something I think any player misses when stepping away from the game they love. That being said, I am really happy the way things are, and I am excited about the new challenge and the relationships formed at the position of coach.”
Although she reveals that such an adjustment forced her to gain a different perspective, analyzing and grasping the ebbs and flows of the game’s progression, it contrasted to the ways involving her former approach as a player. Such a learning curve was part of a bigger picture that saw her wanting to remain involved in a game that has meant so much to her, while inspiring others to build on the legacies of the past.
“It was, for sure, not an easy switch. As a coach, you look at hockey at different perspectives. As a player, during the various camps, you just focused on your role and what you needed to do to be ready and successful in the next game.
As a coach, there was a lot more preparation in terms of looking not only at our team and what each individual needed to do to help the team as a whole succeed, but there was also a lot of work in terms of analyzing the opponents and their systems.
In terms of being interested in coaching, I wanted to remain involved in the game of hockey, and also wanted to give back everything that I had learned as a player to the players of the current game. I was looking forward to helping the success of hockey in Switzerland continue and wanted to be part of its continued growth.”
Among the milestones in Frautschi’s early coaching sojourn, the opportunity to see the Swiss national team qualify for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games was significant. With a pair of four-team tournaments that would see only the winning teams in each gain eligibility, the high stakes winner-take-all environment was intense for players and coaches alike.
In the periods leading up to past Winter Games in Frautschi’s playing career, the Swiss never had to participate in a qualification tournament. Following the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Kamloops, British Columbia, only the top five ranked teams in the IIHF standings gained automatic entry to the 2018 Winter Games.
With host country South Korea also gaining automatic entry to the Games, Switzerland was in the unenviable position of sixth, having to earn the spot via the tournament route. Worth noting is the fact that former ZSC Lions teammate Sarah Murray is the head coach of the South Korean national women’s team. Therefore, this tournament represented more than just a new facet in Frautschi’s career; it was also an early challenge in her coaching odyssey.
Hosted in the popular tourist resort town of Arosa, located in the Plessur Region, the Swiss enjoyed the home-ice advantage that comes with the chance to serve as host country. Joined by the likes of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway, the qualifying tournament took place from February 9-12, 2017. Starting with a solid performance from Florence Schelling between the pipes, it set the tone for the tournament as the Swiss would allow only three goals, while scoring 14, enjoying an undefeated mark.
The third and final game of the qualifying tournament saw the Swiss face off against the Czech Republic, who also boasted a 2-0 record and were looking for their first-ever appearance in the Winter Games. Although the Czechs scored the first goal of the game, credited to Aneta Ledlova at the 17:57 mark of the first period, the Swiss would bounce back.
Lara Stalder, who emerged as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award in her final season with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, contributed a pair of points, including the game-winning tally, solving goaltender Klara Peslarova. Coincidentally, Katka Mrazova of the Czech Republic was also a teammate of Stalder’s at Minnesota-Duluth, extending the program’s legacy of international superstars that have donned their colors.
By game’s end, Stalder would contribute two more points in the third period in a 4-1 final, which also saw Alina Muller complement Stalder’s caliber with her own four-point performance for a jubilantly victorious Swiss squad. As a side note, the second qualifying tournament saw Japan emerge victorious, returning to the Winter Games for the second consecutive time. Japan had taken on Switzerland, along with Czech Republic and Austria at the 4-Nationenturnier (4 Nations Cup), held in December 2016 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
“It was an amazing tournament and I am so proud of this team. The team worked really hard to reach this goal and it all paid off at the end. As a player, I never played a qualification tournament, so it was also something totally new for me.
There were emotions and feelings attached to a qualification tournament that I had not experienced before as a player. However, the excitement of being able to participate in yet another Olympic Games is an amazing feeling. I think regardless of the role, player or coach, to be part of the team’s success and their qualification, the feeling is still comparable.”
Undoubtedly, the joy of emerging victorious in the qualification tournament represented more than just a cherished highlight in her inaugural season as a coach. Such a pinnacle also rekindled happy memories for Frautschi, whose hockey dreams were realized with a podium finish at the previous Winter Games in Sochi.
“Well, I think one of the most incredible moments for me was winning the bronze medal in Sochi. That was just the defining moment of my career; every practice, every game, every moment that I spent trying to improve as a player paid off. It was the definition of a dream come true and allowed me to realize the importance of all my efforts in the past.”
With such strong momentum, the Swiss shall look to maintain their winning ways with a focus on a positive performance at the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, Michigan. As a side note, the final standings at the event shall also determine the tournament seeding for the Winter Games to follow next year.
As the preparation towards Pyeongchang entails the objective of a second consecutive podium finish, it is a strong point of pride for Frautschi to have helped the team reach the plateau of qualification. With the event representing the 20th Anniversary of the first women’s ice hockey tournament in the Winter Games, it would be a remarkable achievement if Frautschi was part of the Swiss coaching staff, obtaining the status of having partaken in the Winter Games for her homeland as both a player and as a coach.
As a former player at the game’s highest levels, Frautschi can definitely relate to the current players on the Swiss team. With regards to her approach in coaching them, she works towards including a familiar element from when she competed. Having displayed confidence in her former teammates’ abilities, it is a method which applies to her coaching style. Working towards instilling that same sense, subsequently encouraging the players, she is simultaneously focused on sharpening their skills, helping them maximize their efforts.
“Well, I can certainly relate to their emotions and their desire to perform well and help this team succeed. I try to trust each player and her abilities, just as you do when you are a teammate. Now there is just the component of teaching and trying to help each individual continue to build on her assets and make the team stronger.
I also feel like Daniela Diaz is an excellent leader of this team and works tirelessly to make this team better both on and off the ice. She is a huge part of this team’s success and she has been a great model for me when it comes to my coaching of this team.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”