Romanuk: A blowout start for Canada at Spengler Cup

Paul Romanuk

12/26/2011 4:43:04 PM

DAVOS – Of course, the starts don't get much better than a 7-1 win. It's big for Canada for a couple of reasons: a day off because they won their opening game, AND, a nice confidence-builder as Marc Crawford was able to spread the ice time around pretty nicely after they jumped out to the early lead. Crawford told me he'll look at both goalies in the first two games – which means we'll see Jake Allen start against Davos on Wednesday night. That'll be a tall order for Allen. Davos v Canada is THE marquee game of the opening round of this tournament. The place will be packed and Davos will be flying.

I'm often asked about how teams qualify for this tournament – the answer is: "You don't. It's an invitational tournament." Davos (of course) and Canada are here every year. After that, the Spengler Cup organizers (led by a guy by the name of Fredi Pargatzi) invite teams based on a combination of who is available and how competitive the team is likely to be.

I have to say, Pargatzi gets it right more often than wrong. Over the 10 years that I've been coming, there haven't been many clubs that have looked completely out of their league. This is the second year that they've decided to add a second Swiss club – which is good for marketing in Switzerland and, I believe, good for the quality of play (the Swiss league is one of the best in Europe).

The other teams have become more of a challenge in recent years because, for example, leagues in Sweden and Finland don't break over the holidays the way they used to; so, unfortunately, you no longer see great club teams like Jokerit or HIFK Helsinki from Finland or Djurgarden and Farjestad from Sweden. The last few years have almost always seen a team from the KHL and then a team from the Czech League or Germany.

Personally, in my "Paul Romanuk Fantasy Hockey World" I'd love to see a team from the American Hockey League (they sent the Rochester Americans in 1996) come over every year and also to get the Nordic nations back on board. It will never happen, of course, but wouldn't it be amazing if, say, the NHL released a team to come and play one year? (I stress that I realise I'm dreaming with that one).

This is the 10th Spengler Cup tournament I've had the pleasure of attending. I can tell you that it's changed a lot from that first one I attended in in 2002. When I first came, Canada was almost the "unofficial second home team." If Davos wasn't playing, most people cheered for Canada. The last few years, that's no longer the case.

In fact, in 2008 I remember being mildly shocked that most people in the building were cheering for Dynamo Moscow against Canada in the final. It was the same last year when Canada played SKA St. Petersburg. I think the reason is this: Canada has contributed a great deal to the development of the game in Switzerland – both with players and coaches, who've come over and contributed to the rise in the level of play in the Swiss League in the last decade. It's now one of the best leagues in Europe. Some, myself included, would argue that only the KHL is clearly better than the Swiss League.

Meanwhile, on the national neam level, the last two coaches have both been Canadians (Ralph Kruger and, now, Sean Simpson). The Swiss have gone from being ranked in the mid-teens in the IIHF world ranking, to seventh and lurking just below the big boys (and being more than capable of surprising them in big games). I think the cheering against Canada here is just a simple case of the student wanting to break away from the shadow of the mentor and not feel as though they have to be "grateful" to Canadian players and teams anymore. They're proud of their own accomplishments, as they should be.