The Victoria Cup remains in its infancy with the 2009 game between the Chicago Blackhawks
and ZSC Zurich just the second game to be played after the Rangers defeated Metallurg Magnitogorsk last year. But the International Ice Hockey Federation is dreaming big. If the IIHF gets its wish, the newest international competition will become an annual event pitting Europe's best vs. the Stanley Cup champion.
"If you ask any European hockey fan anywhere, he's always thinking my team is best here now, but how would my team would matchup if it played the Detroit Red Wings
?" IIHF communications director Szymon Szemberg told NHL.com when the Victoria Cup concept was first announced. "This is the great question they are asking all the time, and hopefully the Victoria Cup can answer that question in the future."
The inaugural Victoria Cup was played Oct. 1 at PostFinance Arena in Bern, Switzerland, where a late goal by Ryan Callahan
lifted the Rangers to a 4-3 win. This year, the Blackhawks and ZSC Zurich will play on Sept. 29 (2:15 p.m. ET)
"I didn't see the game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
said of last year's contest. "But I know that it's a competitive game. I think any game, be it preseason or these exhibition games overseas, I think no matter what type of a lineup you have out there, there's a lot of incentive across the board for players looking to make your lineup. Players looking for more quality ice time. Everybody wants to do well. Everybody wants to have success. As a coach, you're playing to win every hockey game.
"So I think we want to make sure we continue to instill good habits and winning habits as well. I think that's the purpose of, and incentive of, trying to win the games always in place. But I think that we're getting down to the short strokes here. I think getting your team on top of its game, prepared to play the first game of the season, I think most NHL teams have a real good dress rehearsal their last exhibition game and usually go with their lineup they anticipate starting with. And they give it that type of attention, which we're going to do."
Szemberg said the idea for the Victoria Cup was conceived during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy during a meeting between representatives from the NHL and IIHF. It came up in discussions about how the IIHF would celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2009 and how to honor the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, where the first recorded organized indoor ice hockey game was played on March 3, 1875.
"We wanted to commemorate the Victoria Skating Rink and we wanted to have a matchup between an NHL team and a European team," Szemberg said. "We said, 'Let's go ahead with this.'
"The idea to have some kind of a matchup at the summit between the best European team and the best NHL team has been around forever," Szemberg added. "But it's only in the last years that the cooperation between the IIHF, the NHL and the NHLPA has grown to the point where we were able to discuss it in tangible terms."