London wins inaugural Euro-Can Cup
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Originally published in Eishockey News in 2009
By Lucas Aykroyd
The London Pro Knights beat Switzerland’s EV Zug 7-4 on August 31 to win the final of the inaugural Euro-Can Cup. Hosted in London, Canada, the week-long, eight-game tournament also featured Austria’s Black Wings Linz and EHC Munchen of Germany’s 2nd Bundesliga, which finished third and fourth respectively.
Based on the rosters, the results of this pre-season battle were fairly predictable. The host team consisted mostly of current NHLers and minor pro players who once played for the junior London Knights of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers led the tournament with eight goals and four assists, while Oilers teammate Rob Schremp added seven points. The Pro Knights were bolstered by non-London NHLers, including some surprising names: Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi, who had three points in the final, and former NHLer Dave Gagner (Sam’s dad), who scored a pair in the opener despite being retired since 1999.
EV Zug brought the biggest payroll among the European clubs with ex-NHLers such as forwards Paul DiPietro, David Ling, and Josh Holden, plus goalie Jussi Markkanen. The Finnish netminder backstopped Edmonton in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals versus Carolina in 2006, but suffered tragedy two years later when his young son died in a fall from a Moscow apartment window, and is clearly struggling to regain his form. Markkanen posted a 5.67 GAA in three Euro-Can Cup games.
While EHC Munchen battled hard, they just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with their opponents. The German club suffered two overtime defeats (6-5 versus Zug, 5-4 versus London), and also barely fell short in a 3-2 loss to Linz. Vying for their first-ever promotion to the DEL this year, the Munchen players came into the Euro-Can Cup with just two weeks of training and one exhibition game under their belts.
“Because there’s so much hockey in Canada already, people don’t usually have much idea what goes on in Europe,” said Munchen coach Pat Cortina, a native of Montreal. “This tournament will hopefully be a pretty good showcase for European hockey.”
Organizers had hoped to draw a total attendance of 32,000 at the 9,100-capacity John Labatt Centre, but even in a hockey-mad Canadian city of 350,000, they only got about 20,000 for summer hockey. Canadian-born Pat Curcio, a former Wedemark and Hannover Scorpions player who devised the tournament with 16-year German veteran Kerry Goulet, vowed the tournament will continue in future years.
Curcio explained the genesis of the tournament: “Last year, we took most of the London Knights who won the Memorial Cup in 2005 on a pro tour around Europe, playing all these teams. The competition was great. We thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great if the fans in London could see something like this?’”
There are plans to invite more top European teams, such as Hannover, Jokerit Helsinki (Finland), and CSKA St. Petersburg. Former London stars like Steve Mason, Rick Nash, and Corey Perry were unavailable this year due to attending Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in Calgary, but if they agree to play in the future, that should also pique more interest in the Euro-Can Cup.