Spengler Cup: The Forgotten Team Canada

Being the 2nd oldest tournament featuring actual Ice Hockey teams instead of Nations(Behind the Stanley Cup Play-Offs of course), the Spengler Cup gets virtually no recognition among hockey fans. This tournament has been around since 1923 and has been dominated by the Czechoslovakians and Soviets before being dominated by Team Canada when they first began participating in 1984. Canada has 10 titles since first entering, the most of any participating team since 1984.

The Spengler is hosted by Davos, Switzerland and features one team from the Russian League, German League, Czech League and Swedish League and also includes the HC Davos hockey team as well as Team Canada, which is represented by 22 Canadian players from all over the world. The tournament goes from December 26th to December 31st.

Past Team Canada participants include Justin Pogge, Alex Auld, Jame Pollock, Jamie Heward, Glen Metropolit and has been coached by NHL coaching legend Pat Quinn and this year, one of Canada’s assistants is former NHL star Doug Gilmour.

Now, I’ve been watching the Spengler Cup for roughly 7 years now. Prior to that, I never knew the tournament existed and found it accidentily while channel surfing one night. Currently as well as for the past several years, Sportsnet is the only Canadian television station (That I know of) that actually carries the games.

This year, Canada is so far 2-0 and well on their way to becoming the 2007 Spengler Cup winners. This year’s roster includes several Euro stars as well as a few NHL journeymen and one former NHL superstar netminder. The roster looks like this(with NHL service in brackets):

Curtis Joseph(913), Sebastien Caron(92), Wade Flaherty(120)

Mark Giordano(55), Andre Benoit, Yannick Tremblay(390), Mike Siklenka(2), Danny Syvret(26), Curtis Murphy(1), Shawn Heins(125), Ric Jackman(231)

Domenic Pittis(86), Serge Aubin(374), Kirby Law(9), Ramzi Abid(68), Hnat Domenichelli(267), Simon Gamache(48), Yves Sarault(106), Dale McTavish(9), J-P Vigier(213), Jeff Toms(236), Marty Murray(261), Travis Green(970)

Now, at first glance, this roster may seem like a bunch of “NHL rejects” but in reality, some of these guys are fully capable of NHL action. Names that come to mind include: Joseph, Benoit, Tremblay, Murphy, Heins, Jackman, Abid, Gamache and Vigier. Notes on some of these players:

– Joseph is still good and absolutely wants to play in the NHL this year and next and wants to take on a new responsibility of being a mentor to a young up and coming goalie (Gainey, please sign him to back up Price)

– Benoit is a fast skater who is terrific at maintaining his position on both offence and defence and is by far one of the quickest defencemen I’ve ever seen when it comes to transition defence.

– Tremblay is and has always been NHL capable and why he isn’t in the NHL with a team struggling on defence is a mystery. If I was Toronto, I’d sign him to replace Wozniewski as Tremblay provides the same type of game as Kaberle

– Curtis Murphy and Shawn Heins have just cannons from the point and enjoy bombarding goalies with these 98+ MPH blasts. Heins was once clocked at over 104 MPH while in the IHL

– Ric Jackman has shown he has the tools to play in the NHL but for some reason he seems to lack the desire to play. Thus far, I’ve been impressed yet again by Jackman’s showing on the ice

– Abid was once considered a lazy prospect and has made teams lose their patience with him. But seeing him at the Spengler and the way he drives to the net to create scoring chances makes me wonder when he’ll be signed to the NHL

– I’ve been semi-defending Paul Maurice and JFJ this year but I’m gonna have to jump ship because how Simon Gamache isn’t on the Leafs boggles my mind. He’s showing what he’ll do if given decent ice time as he’s incredibly quick with great hands and provides solid defence. If I was a Leaf fan I’d be demanding to see Gamache back in Toronto and on the 2nd line or hell, maybe with Antropov and Sundin. My point, Gamache deserves to be an NHL regular and what he lacks in size he makes up for in sheer determination and speed. By far my Spengler Cup MVP pick.

– J-P Vigier is as talented as they come. Going into the 2007 Free Agency period, I didn’t hold Vigier in high regard but after seeing him at the Spengler, I seriously think he could be a very good power forward. Thus far he’s been used with Gamache and Law and together they provide a solid scoring/checking line that just dominates opponents down low

This is just my take on some of the talent as I hold others, such as Domenichelli, Sarault and McTavish, in high regard but their age makes them somewhat guaranteed to never see NHL action again. But hey, stranger things have happend. The only coverage I’ve seen in 7 years of watching this tournament is when Canada actually wins the Cup and the only game they showcase is the actual Final game, nothing else. I jsut felt it deserved a little more recognition.

And, on a final note, I’d have also covered an American team as well but the Americans haven’t participated in the Spengler Cup in at least 7 years.

If you wish to catch Team Canada, they play again on Saturday and on Sunday and if they win either one or both those games, they play again on New Year’s Eve at noon(12:00).

2 Responses to Spengler Cup: The Forgotten Team Canada

  1. PointMeAtTheSky says:

    Good article.

    It's not surprising that the Spengler Cup is mostly ignored, as it has to compete with the NHL and World Juniors, as well as not boasting the same caliber rosters as other International tournaments.

    But that doesn't mean that we should over-look this rag-tag bunch of NHL "rejects". They wear the Maple Leaf, and they deserve our support!

    Go Team Canada!

  2. markjohnston says:

    I've been watching the spengler cup for a few years as well.

    I'm a teacher and get a couple weeks off each year, and jam it with the world jrs and spengler as a nice little tradition. the games are usually on early and it's nice to chill out all morning and catch a game or two.

    one thing I've really been noticing this year and last in the spengler cup is that you can really see the difference between the jr's – who are the best of the best at their age, and the spengler…who are…well, the best of the rest at their age.

    even still, the spengler teams are so much faster and smarter – and the game is too.

    really makes you realize why a crafty guy like chelios can still compete with 19 year olds. that experience is so key in a game like hockey.

    great article.

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