Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Other Holiday Tournament

With the NHL shutting down for the holidays, you still want some hockey action to add into your festive holiday, right? Well, Hockey Canada will fill that void in two ways. We all know about the Christmas tradition of the World Junior Championships, but the Spengler Cup from Davos, Switzerland always features some of the best non-NHL teams and players playing the game today. If you're looking for some great hockey action while you're sipping egg nog or enjoying turkey leftovers, the Spengler Cup kicks off on Boxing Day, aka December 26, with Canada facing Czech-based HC Vitkovice Steel!

Marc Crawford, fresh off his TSN analyst role, will take his place behind the bench in Davos as the head coach of this year's Spengler squad. He'll be joined behind the bench by long-time Spengler Cup coach Doug Shedden and Anaheim Ducks' assistant coach Trent Yawney. Crawford is, of course, a Stanley Cup-winning coach, so there will be some good experience behind the bench at this year's tournament for Canada.

Thanks to his recent play in Austria, Marty Turco made the jump to Switzerland as his European tour continues. Turco will likely get the majority of starts in this tournament, and the Stanley Cup winner should provide a strong net presence for the Canadians. The second half of the netminding tandem will be Jake Allen. Allen comes to Davos courtesy of the AHL's Peoria Rivermen. The youngster has shown strong play in the AHL over the last couple of years, so this kind of seasoning at a major international tournament should go a long way in helping his development.

A number of returnees mark the Canadian defensive unit. Back from last year's squad are Joel Kwiatkowski (Bern) and Cory Murphy (ZSC Zurich Lions), and Shawn Heins (Fribourg-Gotteron) returns after a one-year hiatus from the Spengler Cup. Doug Lynch (Salzberg EC), Jordan Hendry (HC Lugano), Derrick Walser (Rapperswil-Jona), and Ryan Parent (Chicago Wolves) round out the blueline. There's a lot of talent and good speed on this year's defence, so the Canadians should be solid from the net out.

The forwards have a great mix of veterans. The eldest veteran is this year's captain, and that man would be Stacy Roest (Rapperswil-Jona). Glen Metropolit (EV Zug) and Dominic Pittis (ZSC Zurich Lions) round out the class of 1974 as these three men have a ton of experience under their belts at both the international and North American levels. JP Vigier (SC Bern), Mark Hartigan (Rapperswil-Jona), Byron Ritchie (SC Bern), and Brett MacLean (Rockford IceHogs) round out those players born before 1980. Joel Perrault (Ambri-Piotta), Pascal Pelletier and Kurtis McLean (SCL Tigers), Jeremy Williams (Salzburg EC), Rico Fata (HC Geneve Servette), √Čric Beaudoin (EHC Biel), Brandon Reid (Rapperswil-Jona), and Blaine Down (ZSC Zurich Lions) complete the roster for the Canadians at the 2011 Spengler Cup.

I think the Canadians have a very good shot at winning the Spengler Cup this year with this team. HC Davos will provide some very stiff competition in the same pool as Canada, and Czech-based HC Vitkovice Steel will be a good team to measure against in Canada's first game.

HC Vitkovice Steel features former NHL star Marik Malik on defence and one of Europe's best goalkeepers in Roman Malek. I'm pumped for this tournament because it's always filled with highlights and great goals. TSN2 will be carrying the vast majority of these games, so check your local listings, kids!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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