Features | 12/18/2013 6:47:53 PM | Warren Kosel
One week from now, the American Hockey League will temporarily enter dormancy for the annual Christmas break, but the Rochester Americans won’t have the luxury of spending the holidays at home this year.
OFFICIAL SPENGLER CUP WEBSITE
2013 SPENGLER CUP SCHEDULE
Instead, in just five days time, the Amerks’ players, coaches and staff will be making their way overseas to compete in the prestigious Spengler Cup tournament, scheduled to run December 26-31 in Davos, Switzerland. At this time next week, Rochester will presumably be midway through the first period of its opening round matchup against Swiss hockey club Genève-Servette, who will be making their second appearance in four years at the annual event.
The Amerks are no strangers to the international event either, having competed in the 1996 tournament, where they finished third only behind Team Canada and host club HC Davos. Rochester also has the distinction of being the sole North American participant to ever partake in the 90-year history of the Spengler Cup.
The tournament caps a physically demanding December schedule for the Amerks, who are in the midst of their third consecutive stretch of three games in four days and are only five days removed from playing in their first-ever outdoor game at Frontier Field as part of the 2013 Greater Rochester Area Honda Dealers Frozen Frontier presented by Labatt. Despite having only a 10-day separation between the two events, and an even more arduous travel schedule in the coming days, it’s nonetheless an opportunity that Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy says they’re looking forward to.
“It’s going to be a great event for both our staff and our players,” said Cassidy. “It’s something that none of us are probably going to have the chance to do or haven’t done before. Being able to play in a completely different setting and play against some really high-level teams like this is going to be a lot of fun.”
But before the Amerks can even think about what lies ahead, Rochester must focus on this week’s crucial divisional matchups, including tonight’s all-important get-together with the Toronto Marlies in a battle for first place in the American Hockey League’s North Division.
“From the beginning of the season on, we’ve told the guys to focus mainly on what’s in front of us and just take it day by day,” said Cassidy. “You never want to get caught looking too far forward. We have a big game tonight against Toronto and that should be our focus right now. There’s a lot on the line here tonight as well as this weekend, so it’s imperative that we understand how important it is to finish these three games strong going into the tournament.”
It’s difficult to not look ahead to the tournament, however, especially considering the excitement leading up to it as well as the radically different style of hockey accustomed to the Europeans. Cassidy is certainly one to appreciate the vast differences between the cross-continental play as he’s observed it and experienced it first-hand during his time with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. It’s those minute disparities that Cassidy says will be the biggest obstacles for his team to overcome.
“Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of international experience, and the biggest thing right off the bat is going to be the size of the ice and the width of the ice,” said Cassidy. “There’s an extra 15 feet out there, so the one thing that we find with North American players that end up going over there is that it’s easy to get lost on the ice and play outside the dots. Things happen a lot slower. You got to keep things to the outside and make sure your angles are very good when going after an opposing player. The biggest thing as a coach is to make sure everyone is balancing the ice and that does take a little bit of time to get used to.”
In addition to being able to adjust to the initial culture shock of international play, the Amerks will also be going up against some elite teams representing some of the top leagues and top players around the world. It’s a challenge that Cassidy recognizes, but one he feels the Amerks are ready for.
“There’s going to be some top-level talent in this tournament, there’s no doubt about that,” said Cassidy. “I looked at the rosters of the teams and there’s a lot of former NHLers and a lot of KHL players, so we’re certainly going to be up for a really good challenge over there.”
Aside from the foreseeable challenges Rochester faces in its venture to Switzerland, the Amerks also see this as a prime opportunity to showcase the North American style of play as well as display the talent that now comprises the American Hockey League. The event also presents a unique opportunity for the players that otherwise never experienced anything of this magnitude a chance to play at another level, while representing not only Rochester, New York, but all of North America.
“We’re going to be representing the Rochester Americans, not to mention the American Hockey League and North American hockey,” said Cassidy. “It means a lot for these guys and we certainly want to represent well over there and I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase our league and our team.”
The Spengler Cup is an annual ice hockey tournament held in Davos, Switzerland. First held in 1923, the Spengler Cup is often cited as the oldest and one of the most prestigious invitational ice hockey tournaments in the world. The club tournament’s magic formula is a mix of its location in the Swiss spa town of Davos, the unique arena, the timing between Christmas and New Year’s, the coming together of various ice hockey philosophies and its longstanding tradition. The event is hosted by the Swiss team HC Davos and played each year in Davos, Switzerland, between Christmas (December 25) and New Year's Day. All games are held at Vaillant Arena.
The Amerks will spend the holiday season in Switzerland taking on a variety of opponents from all over the world, as this year’s tournament includes entrants from Canada, Switzerland, Russia and the Czech Republic (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE SCHEDULE). Rochester will open the tournament on Dec. 26 against the Swiss-based club Geneve-Servette.
Here’s a closer look at the teams slated to compete in the 2013 Spengler Cup:
The host team of the Spengler Cup has a long history of winning championships. Backstopped by former Amerks goaltender Mika Noronen, it has won more National League A titles than any other team, having taken home the championship 30 times, a run that started in 1926. Their most recent title came in 2011. In addition, the club has won the Spengler Cup a total of 15 times, with the first coming in 1926 and the most recent in 2011.
Based in the famous Swiss city of Geneva, and, like HC Davos, plays in the Switzerland’s top professional league. The team is coached by Canada native Chris McSorley, who played four seasons in the American Hockey League with New Haven and Springfield. Matthew Lombardi, a nine-year NHL veteran, reportedly signed with the team last month.
Hockey Canada enters a team into the tournament each year, typically made up of Canadian players who are playing professionally in Europe. Last season, because the NHL was in the midst of a work stoppage when the Spengler Cup took place, stars such as John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Matt Duchene, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Sam Gagne took part in the tournament. Team Canada will enter as the defending champs after the team featuring the aforementioned players defeated the host team 7-2 in the final game.
One of Russia’s historic clubs, CSKA Moscow is a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and is coached by American John Torchetti, former head coach of the AHL’s Houston Aeros and a longtime NHL assistant coach who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10. This year’s team features several former NHL players, including Alexander Radulov, Oleg Saprykin, Viktor Kozlov and Alexei Morozov.
HC Vitkovice Steel competes in the Czech Republic’s Czech Extraliga. Like many of the teams in the Spengler Cup, the club has a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1928, they have won multiple championships and are located in the Czech city of Ostrava.
Stay tuned in the coming days and over the course of the tournament as Amerks.com continues to provide fans with more in-depth coverage, news and notes, stats and scores and other important information throughout the duration of the 2013 Spengler Cup.