I won't be spending a ton of time on it, focusing more on the WJC's than this long running tradition of the alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland, but here's a short look at what's ahead at this year's Spengler Cup.
The tournament has been expanded to invite four club teams from across Europe, plus the two permanent fixtures:
- Geneve-Servette from Switzerland's NLA
- Sparta Prague from the Czech Republic's Extraliga
- SKA St. Petersburg from Russia's KHL
- Spartak Moscow from Russia's KHL
- HC Davos, the hosts from Switzerland's NLA
- Team Canada - a non club 'national' team made up of professionals mostly from Switzerland's NLA, but sometimes from the AHL (eg. G Jeff Deslauriers of the Oklahoma City Barons) or other leagues
Teams can add up to six players (5 skaters and 1 goalie) from elsewhere for the tournament, so it's not necessarily a pure club championship of any kind. The teams are invited based on appeal and availability, so it's really just about bringing a sampling of some of Europe's top professionals to Davos to put on a show for the fans. Last year's winners, for example, were the KHL's Dinamo Minsk from Belarus, but they aren't back to defend their title. The teams that are here, though, include some one time powers of the tournament.
Spartak Moscow was a dominant force at the Spengler Cup from 1980-90, a stretch of period where the then Soviet club won the title five times. SKA, meanwhile, was a power in the 1970s, winning when the city they represented was called Leningrad three times. Sparta Prague has won the event two times (1962 and 1963), and placed second in 2004. The Team Canada entry, which first appeared in the early 1980s, has won the title eleven titles, including a dominant run in the 1990s (five titles, four straight from 1995-98). The only club without a previous title (HC Davos has fourteen, most recently in 2006) is Geneve-Servette.
The past two years, a KHL team has won the title (Minsk last year and Dynamo Minsk in '08), which gives you an idea of where the balance of power is trending in European professional hockey. The tournament is tough on KHL teams, as the rest of the league continues on playing during this week of play, meaning they'll have a more condensed schedule the rest of the way. Sparta Prague has already played two extra games heading into this weekend, and will have another makeup game in January to make up for their absence from the league schedule.
The tournament favourites are probably SKA St. Petersburg, as the talented, high profile roster has been having a good run as of late in the KHL. Evgeni Nabokov may no longer be there, but his presence isn't being missed. Prague and Spartak Moscow aren't having very good years at all, and neither is Geneva, so the other two likely options for winners are from the hosts Davos (2nd in the NLA) and Team Canada.
The tournament will be broadcast throughout the world. TSN and TSN2 have picked up the broadcasts for Canada, taking over from Rogers Sportsnet this year as TSN continues to drape themselves in the Canadian flag during the holiday season. Eurosport 1 will pick up the first semifinal and the final, while Eurosport 2 will play the other games throughout their area (primarily central Europe). In the Czech Republic, the local Fox Sports station will be airing the games, while Russians can watch on VGTRK. Other stations, like Eurosport Asia/Pacific and even Sky Sports Mexico will be picking up broadcasts. So if you're in somewhere that doesn't have it on TV (cough, USA) and you'd like to check it out, there might be a way for you to do so.
First games on the 26th include Geneva and St Petersburg (3:00 PM GMT+1) and HC Davos vs. Spartak Moscow (8:15 PM GMT+1). Prague will play the loser of the Geneva/St. Petersburg game on Monday afternoon, while Team Canada will take on the loser of the Davos/Moscow game the next evening.