It was a perfect picture. The heart of the Swiss Alps, with light flakes of snow drifting down onto an outdoor hockey rink. On the rink: Team Canada going through a light, off day, work out at the Spengler Cup hockey tournament. Around the rink: hundreds of the locals who come out every year to watch the traditional Team Canada open practice.
“This is one of the highlights of the tournament,” said one Davos resident. “The Canadians are so good with the fans. Signing autographs and making the people feel like a part of it. Next to Davos [the home club], Canada is our favourite.”
After the practice it’s time for the annual team photo, followed by a turn on the ice for the dozens of friends and family here in Davos to cheer the team on.
“It’s like a painting out here, isn’t it?”, said Canadian head coach Marc Habschied with a smile as he watched a bunch of kids chase a puck around the ice. “It makes this tournament so much more special to have a day like this when the players can share it with their families.”
Habschied, who is coaching in his first Spengler Cup Tournament, has been impressed by the level of competition.
“Heading in we knew that there would be some very good teams here, especially with the addition of some of the locked out NHL players. The competition has been great and our guys have responded. We’ve started off a little slow in each of the first two games but we got better as the game went on.”
Hockey Canada made a decision prior to the tournament to build a team as they had in the past – made up of Canadian-born pros playing in Europe. They decided not to cherry pick a team made up of locked out NHLers. So far, the loyalty has been rewarded.
“The guys who play over here have a lot of pride,” said assistant coach Sean Simpson, who coaches Zug of the Swiss League. “These guys are pros and some of them have played for Canada a bunch of times in these European tournaments. They appreciated that Hockey Canada stuck with them this year when they might have been tempted to do otherwise.”
With a 5-2 win over Metallurg Magnitigorsk (Russia) and a day two 3-2 shoot out victory over Davos (Switzerland), Canada is in a position to pretty much nail down a berth in the championship game with one win in the next two games. Canada plays Sparta Prag (Czech Republic) on Wednesday before wrapping up the round robin portion of the tournament with a game against IFK Helsinki (Finland) on Thursday. The championship game, featuring the top two teams after the round-robin, will be played on Friday.