Ask most hockey fans to name a Christmas-time international hockey tournament and the likely answer will be the World Junior Hockey Championship. But while the world’s best under-20 hockey players battle it out for international supremacy, another more established group of players are doing the same in Davos, Switzerland.
Held every year from Dec. 26-31 and hosted by Swiss League hockey team HC Davos, the Spengler Cup features five clubs, including the hosts, playing each other once in a round robin tournament. The top two ranked squads then meet in the final to determine the champion.
Teams participating in the annual event are there by invitation only, as selected by the Spengler Cup Organizing Committee. Most are clubs from various European leagues, with the exception of a Team Canada or Team USA squad made up of players plying their trade overseas or occasionally in North American minor hockey leagues.
Spengler Cup History
The Spengler Cup was established in 1923 by Dr. Carl Spengler, a Swiss physician who also happened to be a passionate sports fan. He created the hockey tournament as a means to bring together players from countries who had been enemies during the war.
The Oxford University hockey team became the first team to ever win the Spengler Cup and earned top honors in two of the first four years in tournament history. The other two titles in those years belonged to BSC Berlin, and both Oxford and Berlin beat hometown favorite HC Davos for the victory.
During its first 60 years of existence, the Cup was won exclusively by European hockey teams. It wasn’t until Team Canada made its first appearance in 1984 that the championship was claimed by a North American hockey club.
Teams With the Most Spengler Cup Wins
As the hosts, HC Davos is the only team to have participated in every tournament. As such, it’s of little surprise that the Swiss hockey team has been the most successful at the Spengler Cup tournament. Davos had delighted the hometown fans 15 times heading into the 2009 tourney, but hadn’t come out on top since 2004.
Despite a predominately European contingent, Canada has been very successful at the Spengler Cup. Entering its 25th year in the Switzerland-based hockey tournament, the team had won 11 times since its 1984 debut, with its most recent coming in 2007 over Russian hockey team Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
NHL Players Who Have Played in the Spengler Cup
When North American hockey players can no longer find work in the NHL or AHL, they will often cross the Atlantic Ocean to find work in the European hockey leagues.
Former NHL players that have represented Canada at the Spengler Cup tournament include:
- Alexandre Daigle
- Curtis Brown
- Mark Bell
- Randy Robitaille
- Curtis Joseph
- Travis Green
Other players have gone over to Europe and suited up for Team Canada at the tourney, only to return to the NHL or AHL in the following years. Some of those players include:
- Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames)
- Justin Pogge (Anaheim Ducks)
- Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton Oilers)
- Jason Strudwick (Edmonton Oilers)
- Andre Benoit (Montreal Canadiens)
Where to Watch the Spengler Cup
While the World Junior Hockey Championship dominates the airwaves, the Spengler Cup is indeed available to Canadian hockey fans, courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet.
Over in Europe, the tournament is aired on Eurosport 2 in most of the continent and on RTR Sport in Russia.