Friday, January 8, 2010

The Spengler Cup - A Holiday Tradtion Since 1923


This article was first published in the January 8th edition of Main Street Week, page 6, and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The Spengler Cup - A Holiday Tradition Since 1923

The eyes of Canadian hockey fans and media members were on Saskatoon and Regina during the holidays as Saskatchewan hosted the World Junior Tournament and the announcement of Canada's roster for the Vancouver Olympics. While the tournament is a tremendous opportunity to see NHL prospects and draft eligible players compete against one another as they represent their countries, 7,000 kilometres away in Davos, Switzerland, another Team Canada was competing in the Spengler Cup.

The Spengler Cup is an invitational hockey tournament, created in 1923 by Dr. Carl Spengler of Davos, Switzerland. After World War 1, Germany and Austria were banned from International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) competitions and Dr. Spengler wished to create a tournament that would allow these two countries to compete against the best teams in the world. Five teams from different countries compete every year for the Spengler Cup, held between December 26th and December 31st, and since 1984, a National team consisting of Canadians playing on European clubs has represented our country and won the tournament eleven times.

The early years of the Spengler Cup have a very historic and significant connection to Canada. The Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, four-time winners of the Spengler Cup (1923, 1925, 1931 and 1933), included such notable names as: future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the designer of the current Canadian Flag, George F.G. Stanley and Clarence Campbell, the President of the NHL from 1946-1977.

This year’s tournament included host team, HC Davos (Switzerland), Team Canada, Dynamo Minsk (from Belarus, they play in Russia’s KHL), Adler Mannheim (German Elite League), and HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czech Elite League). An interesting note, Canadian players on a European team included in the tournament will play against Team Canada. For example, Dynamo Minsk was coached by former NHL player and Washington Capitals coach, Glen Hanlon (Brandon, Manitoba), and the goaltender for Adler Manheim was Ottawa native Fred Brathwaite.

Coached by former Edmonton Oilers bench boss Craig MacTavish, Canada finished this year’s tournament with a 2-2 win/loss record, finishing third but failing to qualify for the Championship game, which Dynamo Minsk won over their hosts, HC Davos by a 3-1 score. After opening the tournament with victories over the Czech club (7-6 in a shootout) and the host squad from Davos (6-2), back-to-back losses to the German club (5-2) and the eventual winners from Belarus (4-3) left Canada on the outside looking in when it came time for the Finals.

Leading the way in scoring during the tournament for Team Canada with five points was Jean-Pierre Vigier. A native of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba, Vigier currently plays for Bern in the Swiss League and played in 213 NHL games with Atlanta and 201 games in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves before heading to Switzerland for the 2007-2008 season. Other notable names on Canada’s roster included, former first round draft pick Alexandre Daigle, Randy Robitaille, Yannick Tremblay, Serge Aubin and goaltender Wade Dubielewicz.

While the goal in any tournament is to win the Championship, the Spengler Cup offers Canadians abroad the opportunity to join together with their families and celebrate the holiday season, while hitting the ice in an historic tournament. Next December, while looking for some great hockey and a chance to wear your Team Canada sweater, remember that the national colours are worn with pride every year in Switzerland at the Spengler Cup. Have a great sports day everyone and all the best in 2010.

Photo by: hockey_and_more on Flickr

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