Friday, December 28, 2012

Reinforcement Rules at Spengler Cup

The Spengler Cup is the often forgotten relative in the holiday tournament scene. Though it is the oldest European club tournament, founded in 1923 as a way to help German speaking Europeans after World War I and started by Dr. Carl Spengler. It's hosted by HC Davos in Davos, Switzerland at the fantastic Valliant Arena, but it wasn't until 1979 when the tournament went indoors. HC Davos is there as the host and usually there's a representation from Hockey Canada that plays; as well as four other teams that are brought in by invitation only.

With the NHL lockout, the tournament has brought a lot of big names, especially with Canada actually making their team a mix of NHLers who may not have played yet this year (Ryan Smyth, Devan Dubnyk), NHLers who are playing Switzerland (John Tavares, Tyler Seguin), and other Canadians who play in Switzerland (Josh Holden, Micki Dupont). On top of it all the likes of Joe Thornton and Patrick Kane have graced the roster of HC Davos, Cory Schneider and Max Talbot on Fribourg, as well as Jason Pominville and Dennis Seidenberg on Mannheim.

The interesting part about this is not only the cavalcade of Canadian players that come from Switzerland and Europe to make up the Canadian team, nor is it the referee jerseys looking like a cow; but the fact that there's plenty of guys from other teams in the same league in order to play for one of the invited teams. One of which is Patrick Kane, who doesn't play for Davos, but is coming over from another Swiss League team: EHC Biel. Also going to Davos from Biel is Reto Berra, who was supposed to help the Davos goaltending situation. Max Talbot goes to play for Fribourg after spending the season so far with the Finnish League's Ilves, while Cory Schneider plays for HC Ambri-Piotta, but is in net for Fribourg.

Teams are allowed to bring in three skaters and a goalie for reinforcements, but often times teams don't do that. Davos is a team who puts it into a big effect in order to put on a great show for the home crowd. For me, I often wonder why a team would want to bring in other players from their opposition to play for them, even though this is an invitational tournament and you want to have the best players on the roster in order to win it all.

Even with that, one would think that it would be an issue and hope that you don't get your "secrets" stolen because you bring in "spies" from other teams to play in a chance to win it all. While you can imagine that the neutrality of the Swiss nature is there, it still is a risky venture and something that makes me scratch my head as an outsider. More over than that, the team the loans out their players have to hope that in some aspect-- they don't get hurt because often it's their best players that are transferred out.

Espionage storyline that I've made up in my own head aside-- the practice is something that is a very fun thing to see, especially when a short tournament like this happens and some guys who wouldn't have gotten to experience it otherwise. It's a high-tempo week with only a guarantee of three games and is one of the more prestigious, if not little known, championships that not many get a shot at. Not only that, but you wonder why there's not more of these kind of invitational tournaments in North American pro ranks. For me, the Spengler Cup is one of the better tournaments out there because of it's exclusivity and little rules such as the reinforcements, plus it's played at one of the most badass arenas out there.

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