Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rangers Win First Cup in 15 Years

While most Habs fans were listening to yet another meaningless affair between the Canadiens and the Bruins for no points with goaltenders that won't see the light of day come a week's time, the New York Rangers were busy celebrating a Victoria Cup win in Switzerland.

The perplexed New York media did a decent job of covering the event, though they couldn't wrap their minds around the fact it wasn't just a preseason game, especially not for Metallurg who are in full swing now anyway.

The game itself was a thriller. And were it on the CBC, we'd be calling it a classic. It had all the elements of classic story lines. The bad guys came out fast and beat down the good guys, they built an insurmountable lead, the plucky heroes made a start at coming back, nearly fell a couple of times then finally got it done at the very last second with a breakaway goal.

As much as I hate to say it, you have to be glad the Rangers won this one when the opposing coach says something like this in the post-game interview:
“We didn’t actually lose the game, we lost a part of it. A big mistake by one of our defencemen decided the game. Otherwise, we might have had a shootout, which is unpredictable,” he added.

What nonsense.

Also, the Rangers gave this game the respect it deserved (when none was forthcoming from the Stanley Cup Champions or Canadiens) and iced their regular season lineup. They also played it right to the end and did the competition proud.

What's more, a lot of the Rangers got the point, including late-goal hero Ryan Callahan:

"There was a lot of energy in the building," game-winning goal hero Ryan Callahan said. "It didn't feel like a preseason game to us."

If you want the actual story from someone who was actually lucky enough to see this one in Switzerland, the try reading either of these reports: NHL, Scotty Hockey or Victoria Cup site.

In fact, were the Canadiens the team, I think we'd all have had a great time watching this game. As it was, it was still memorable. certainly more so than any exhibition game.

When you think of the Victoria Cup, it is easy to dismiss it as just a silly competition between one big league and a continent of pretenders. But the fact is, now more than ever before, those pretenders are actually contenders – especially in a one-game contest.

I have long thought that hockey needed another trophy to create a bit more of a stir. Rather than look to the template of North American sports where 30 baseball teams can play every day for 7 months so that 8 can eventually vie for a single trophy, I look to European sports where multiple trophies have been the norm for ages. While there's no doubt the Stanley Cup would still take precedence, just like the Premiership trophy or La Liga trophy would, the Victoria Cup could cobble a place for itself as the Champion's league, or at least UEFA Cup of hockey. It would not have to take anything away from the competition for the present Cup, nor would it. A separation of months would see to that.

If you think about it, all trophies take a bit of getting used to and some time to gain a reputation and respect. Famously the World Cup (now undeniably the biggest single-sport sporting event in the world) was a bit of a washout its first few times out. The very first one included only 4 teams from Europe, and only those that were willing to go (i.e., not necessarily the best).

The Victoria Cup was always going to face this kind of apathy to start with, especially with the NHL not mandating its top team to participate. But, it's probably only a Stanley Cup Champion, a Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens classic away from becoming a mainstream favourite in Canada really. I've made no secret of the fact I would like to see our Habs vie for this next season, and as yet there haven't been good arguments against it.

For you trivia buffs, some fun:

First goalscorer in Victoria Cup history: Denis Platonov, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

Highest point getter in Victoria Cup history: Chris Drury, New York Rangers (2G, 0A)

Most shots on goal in Victoria Cup final: Chris Drury, New York Rangers (9 shots)

Starting goaltenders, Victoria Cup: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers; Andrei Mezin, Metallurg Magnitogorsk

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