When Team Canada hit the ice for the Spengler Cup in Davos Switzerland over the Christmas season a former Yorkton Mauler Bud Holloway was wearing number 4.
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 invitational ice hockey tournament in the world. The event is hosted by the Swiss team HC Davos and played each year in Davos, Switzerland, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, detailed Wikipedia.
Holloway, 26, who is from Wapella, SK., said playing in the Swiss League to start with helped him be noticed for Canada’s Spengler Cup team.
“They choose the team mainly from the Canadians playing in the Swiss league,” he explained. “This year due to injuries and clubs not releasing their players we had guys from other leagues in Europe and even a few players from the AHL.
“As far as how I found out was when I received a call from Hockey Canada asking if I would come play; of course the answer was going to be yes! The same thing happened in early November when I got to represent Canada at the Deutschland Cup in Munich.”
The Deutschland Cup is an in-season international ice hockey tournament hosted by the German Ice Hockey Federation which has been contested in most years since 1987.
Canada defeated Germany 5-2 on Sunday in their final game of the Deutschland Cup, but finished in second place in the tournament when the United States beat Slovakia 4-0 and won the title on goals differential, which was the tie-breaker.
Canada and USA both finished the Deutschland Cup with identical records of 3-0-1, but the Americans’ 16-8 goals for-goals against ratio was better than Canada’s 16-12 ratio.
As for being on Team Canada, Holloway said it is of course special to wear the jersey.
“It’s obviously an unreal feeling and both times I was chosen to represent the nation I was honoured,” he said. “The feeling around the team is so special, getting to go to the rink and play with my fellow countrymen was awesome.”
And the Spengler Cup has gained a bigger reputation among international events; so was that part of what drew Holloway to move to Switzerland to play, a chance to play in the Cup?
“I had known about the tournament for a long time but it wasn’t one of the reasons I decided to come to the Swiss league,” he said, but added, “as the year went on I did start to think about it and hoped that they would ask me.”
Certainly in Switzerland the Spengler Cup is huge in terms of hockey, and history.
“It was originally devised by Dr. Carl Spengler as a means to promote teams from German-speaking Europe, who might have suffered ostracism in the aftermath of World War I. Eventually, the tournament grew well beyond expectations. Many of Europe’s most prestigious clubs and national programs have appeared, including Soviet, Swedish, Czechoslovak and German powerhouses,” detailed Wkipedia.
“The Cup was first awarded in 1923 to the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, composed of Canadian students. The tournament was then dominated by Czechoslovak and Soviet teams between 1965 and 1983. In 1984 Team Canada began participating and has since won the Cup twelve times. Team Canada is predominantly made up of Canadians playing in Europe, as well as American Hockey League prospects. Notable free agents (like veteran goaltender Curtis Joseph) or coaches without an NHL contract have also used the Spengler Cup to keep their name around.
From its inception until 1978, the tournament was played on an outdoor rink. The outdoor rink still exists outside the indoor arena, and is one of the largest outdoor rinks in the world. Starting in 1978, all tournament games have been played indoors.”
Holloway said it is easy to feel the tradition surrounding the Spengler Cup.
“The Spengler is an awesome tournament for players and fans both! It’s in a small mountain town called Davos that is a great place to be around the holidays.” he said. “I had two of my friends visiting from Wapella and we all had an amazing experience and so many good memories of that week.”
As for results, Team Canada finished the Spengler Cup with a 3-2 win over IHF Helsinki to finish with a 3-1 record, giving the team a third place finish.
Holloway’s connection to Yorkton includes playing two years of his minor hockey in the city.
“I played my second year Bantam and my only year of AAA Midget (2003-04) in Yorkton,” he told Yorkton This Week in an interview via email.
“I had a lot of great times there and the biggest thing for me was just adapting to leaving home for the first time to pursue my hockey. Going to a new school and meeting new people was a new thing for me and it prepared me for when I went to the Western League (with Seattle). I still have contact with a lot of the people that I met playing there.”
After four years with Seattle in the WHL, Holloway had a cup of coffee in the minor pros in North America, before turning to Europe to play.
“I played three-years in the northern part of Sweden in a town called Skelleftea, we won two championships and lost in the final my first year; so I decided it was time for a change,” he said. “I wanted to try a different country and city so when Bern (Switzerland) contacted my agent I was interested and eventually ended up choosing them over a few other contract offers.”
The change of venue has been good for Holloway. In 35 games in Bern he has had eight goals and 30-points so far this season.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Our team is in first at the moment and the lifestyle outside of hockey has been awesome. The country itself is beautiful and the city has a lot of history and interesting things to see. The mountains are only 45-minutes away so it’s quite a bit different then Saskatchewan.”
And the competition on the ice is good, offered Holloway.
“It is a good league and a high caliber for sure but it’s tough to compare the styles,” he said. “The ice is much bigger here so naturally there is less hitting but the skill level and play making is high. There are only 50-games here also compared to the 76 in the A (American Hockey League) so when it is time to play you have to be ready.”
The Swiss league attracts players from several countries; which would seem to create some natural language barriers, but Holloway said that has not been the case.
“Actually, I have never had a problem with this in either of the countries that I played in,” he said. “The people in the organization, the coaches, and the players all do their best to let me know what is happening and all can speak English very well.”
And there is a Canadian connection on the Bern team too.
“We have six Canadians actually,” he said; “Byron Ritchie, Chuck Kobasew, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Kevin Cloutier, and Yellowgrass’s own Nolan Schaffer. Nolan has a Swiss passport as well so he doesn’t count against the four imports you can have on the roster during a game.”