DAVOS – Happy New Year!
In no particular order, some final thoughts on the 2012 Spengler Cup.
Emotion: You see it sometimes from afar, but you really see it up close. The misty eyes of Canadian coach Doug Shedden when I interviewed him on the ice after the championship game reflected just how much this meant to him. Doug was a decent player, but he's become a very good coach and this was a big chance with Canada's National Team. He coached Finland to a bronze medal at the World Hockey Championship in 2008 and is very proud of that – but, as he said to me during that interview on the ice: "This is my country and I'm coaching Canadians and that makes it really special."
Davos v Mannheim Semi-Final: Patrick Kane put on a clinic that combined his remarkable skill set with an enthusiasm that no one in the building will ever forget. He scored two goals in the game, including the winner with :22 seconds remaining – and he celebrated as though he was in a Stanley Cup playoff game. I interviewed him on the ice afterwards, and his comment of (roughly): "It's hockey. I love playing and I'm happy when I'm playing," was a nice moment.
Canada's Championship Celebration: The players did something I'd never seen here before – they lifted the Spengler Cup over their heads and passed it around, Stanley Cup style, from one player to another on the ice. The fans loved it and, as one Swiss reporter said to me on the ice at the time: "They're having fun and making this ceremony something that it should be. This is great." I second that.
Classy Veterans: It truly warmed my heart to see old hockey warriors (and guys I've known since they were in their teens) Ryan Smyth and Joe Thornton. They remembered my name, they made a point of saying "hi" and they were absolute pros to deal with in terms of interview demands and anything else that was needed not from just TSN, but media from all over Europe. They both accorded the respect this tournament deserves and represented themselves, their teams and their country with pride. Old pros. They get it.
Brad Pascall: Canada's general manager was pulling the strings for his second Spengler Cup tournament. The 2011 version was a disaster. It was the poorest showing ever by a Canadian team at the Spengler Cup. Pascall was on a mission to get it right in 2012. He went off-script and didn't bring in a former NHL coach to oversee things. Instead he went with two guys who both know the Canadian Swiss-based players and the teams. He also spent hours and hours consulting with players and their agents to work through whatever issues needed to be worked through to make sure that he could assemble the best possible team. Lastly, he respected the guys in the Swiss League who've answered the call before (and will again) like Travis Roche, Josh Holden and Micki Dupont (just to name three) by not bringing in too many locked out NHLers. It was a perfect mix.
The Atmosphere: It never gets tired for me. There is loads of singing, chanting, drum beating, beer drinking and sausage eating by the thousands of fans who descend on this small town every Christmas season, and the good-naturedness of it is always a pleasure to observe. What made it more fun this year was to observe the reactions of guys on the Canadian team (and their families) who had never experienced it before. A couple of the veteran NHL players, knowing that this was likely a once in a career experience, were sad to leave. So was I.
It's been fun. Same time, same place next year?