DAVOS – Sometimes when you're actually at an event, you lose a little perspective. I've been coming to the Spengler Cup for ten years and, because it's work (albeit enjoyable work), I know most of the ins and outs of the format, the way teams get here, their ability to add players and so on. But I get a lot of questions over Twitter from people who are confused by the set-up. You need some answers; I need a blog entry. So: It's time for Spengler Cup Q + A.
Stephen Butler (@sbutler66) asks: "How are entries currently allocated?"
The Spengler Cup is an invitational tournament. The tournament organizers – primarily tournament President Fredi Pargãtzi – decide during the summer, which teams to invite and then begin negotiations. HC Davos and Team Canada always receive an invite. There is, since 2010, always a second Swiss League club. So that leaves three other places for club teams from around Europe.
Sean Musson (@shinermaginer) asks: "Is Canada's team grandfathered in or something?"
The tournament has been around since 1923, Canada didn't become involved until 1984 – when then President of the Spengler Cup, Fredy Gfeller decided to increase interest in the event by inviting Canada's National Team. When Hockey Canada dropped its full-time national team programme, it continued to send a team made up of primarily Swiss League-based Canadians. There have been, occasionally, other national teams invited to the tournament. The USSR, Finland and Czechoslovakia have all had national teams here before, but Canada has become a fixture.
From numerous tweeters: "How come Canadians are playing on teams against Canada?"
Again, it's a club team tournament; so, for example, if Joe Thornton is under contract to play for HC Davos this season – as he is – then he plays for HC Davos. He's not allowed to leave his club team and come and play for Canada. It is a little strange, I'll grant you, but this is a unique tournament (plus, I'm used to it).
Also from numerous people: "How many players can a team add to their roster?"
A team can add up to four additional players to the team. Generally the additional players come from Swiss League teams because the league is in a break during the Spengler Cup. Usually the team loaning the player will receive a cash payment and there are also often conditions attached by the loaning team. For example, Zug loaned Damian Brunner and Rafael Diaz to HC Davos but on the condition that they could only play a maximum of three games. Those conditions never apply to the Canadians released to play for Team Canada.
"Do teams receive money for playing in the tournament?"
Teams receive about $100,000 to participate. In addition, expenses like travel and hotels are all taken care of. Prize money increases if you make it to the semi-finals and the final. The winning team will head home with about $250,000 in their bank account and the other team in the final about $150,000.
"What's with those freaky cow uniforms for the refs?"
I like them myself. Essentially, here's the dilemma for European hockey in general: It's not the NHL folks. There aren't a limitless number of 18,000-seat arenas, teams don't play 41 home games plus exhibition games plus post-season games, teams and tournaments can't charge NHL ticket prices, leagues don't receive the kind of money the NHL does for TV rights. They have to pay the bills and that's why you see advertising on the sweaters, the ice and, in this case, the referee sweaters. I agree the cows are pushing the envelope but the biggest sport in the world – soccer – routinely has advertisements on the officials jerseys (see the British Premiership) and, of course, right on the front of the team jerseys.
"Which tournament do you prefer, the Spengler Cup or the World Juniors?"
Two different beasts. One benefits from the caché of best-on-best national teams and the exuberance of youth - and the other benefits from the higher skill level of professional players, many of whom have been pros for a decade.
I love 'em both.