DAVOS - A tradition for as long as I've been coming to the Spengler Cup is the Team Canada Family Skate Day.
Under the old tournament format, it used to come on the off day for the team.
However, under the new format, in which the schedule varies depending on whether you win or lose your first couple of games, the skate has been moved to Christmas Day.
It's all about the players and their wives/girlfriends, kids and parents.
They always take the official team photo - with the mountains and arena as a backdrop - and a big family photo.
The coolest thing about the event is that you see the players as fathers and husbands. Be it skating around holding hands with their wife/girlfriend or trying to teach a toddler how to skate.
This is the tenth year that the Spengler Cup will be broadcast to Canadians. A quick story on how it started: I had seen the tournament on TV over the years when coming to Europe to work on the World Junior Championship. The pictures, as they are now, were always great - colourful fans, beautiful scenery and entertaining hockey. It was always in the back of my mind: "Wouldn't it be great to do this for Canadian TV." Fast forward several years, and I helped put together a group (yours truly, Doug Honegger and producer - now TSN Exec VP of Live Programming - Paul Graham) to purchase the Canadian TV rights. So, we had the rights, but not much money or interest from Canadian broadcasters. We did not have enough money for satellite transmission costs. So, for the first ever broadcast year (2002), we called the games live in Davos, had them recorded on tape and then had the tape driven immediately to Zurich and put on a flight back to Toronto. Once in Toronto, it was picked up at the airport by Paul's wife and taken to a company that could convert the video format from the one used to record it in Europe to the type used by North American TV. After that was done, the tape was taken to an excellent (and sadly now deceased) editor by the name of Ken Moe. Ken worked his magic and put together a two hour presentation of the game, which was then delivered to the sports channel that was running it and then broadcast. So, the games were all tape delayed by about a day and a half! We've come a long way, but I always chuckle when I remember that first year and hoping after every game that the driver made it to Zurich in time for the flight.
I saw Fred at the team skate on Wednesday morning and shared a few old junior hockey stories with him (namely the 1990 Memorial Cup with Oshawa). He's 40 now and looks in great shape. After a decent NHL run in the late 90s and early 00s, Fred headed to Russia and eventually left there and signed with Mannheim in the DEL. He was the DEL Player of the Year in 2009. He capped off a nice four season run with Mannheim when he retired after last season. The thing is, I half expected him to be playing for Canada in this tournament. I thought that because when I saw him last month in Germany at the Deutschland Cup - where he was an assistant coach with Team Canada - he was about as happy standing behind the bench in a suit as any first year retired player is: not very. He was joking (or was he?) with Team Canada general manager Brad Pascall that, you know, "if need be, he could be convinced…" It never came to be, but at the time I wouldn't have bet against it. Fred didn't succeed like he did by taking "no" for an answer very often.