European club champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Russia) will play the NHL-challenger, New York Rangers, in the inaugural Victoria Cup on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 in the Swiss capital of Berne. The announcement was made jointly by the IIHF and the NHL.
The one-game Victoria Cup will be played at Berne's 16,789-capacity PostFinance-Arena, also the main venue for the 2009 IIHF World Championship. The winner will receive the Victoria Cup, a trophy to be awarded annually to the winner of game between Europe's top team and an NHL-challenger.
The introduction of the Victoria Cup was announced at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Moscow as one of the highlight events celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of the IIHF. The cup is named after the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal where the first organised hockey game was played on March 3, 1875.
The Victoria Cup will be preceded by an exhibition game on Tuesday, September 30, between host SC Bern and the New York Rangers. It marks the first time a Swiss club will play an NHL team.
"This is a milestone for international hockey and for the relationship between the IIHF and the National Hockey League," said IIHF President René Fasel. "Ever since the historic game between the Montreal Canadiens and CSKA Moscow on New Year's Eve 1975, hockey fans around the world have been longing for games between NHL clubs and European teams. There have been several games since then, but this is the first time we will have a summit meeting, a one-off final, for a trophy which we hope will be part of the annual international calendar for years to come."
The games will be played on an international ice surface with IIHF rules. "But we are in the process of discussing with the NHL to integrate a few NHL rules specifically for the Victoria Cup, as well as having both games officiated jointly by both IIHF and NHL referees," said René Fasel. "As the IIHF has adopted the four-man officiating system, the Victoria Cup presents the perfect opportunity to have IIHF and NHL referees work together."
"René Fasel had said he hoped to have 'a team with some history' represent the NHL at the Victoria Cup event, and we are extremely pleased the Rangers agreed to participate," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "We also are delighted to help the IHF celebrate its 100th Anniversary."
"We agreed that the Rangers would be the optimal club to represent the NHL in the first Victoria Cup," said IIHF President René Fasel on the decision to have the New York Rangers become the NHL-challenger in the inaugural Victoria Cup. "The Rangers were the first ever NHL club to play against a European team when they met CSKA Moscow in New York on December 28, 1975, they have been one of the NHL teams that have most often shown enthusiasm to go overseas and there is no doubt that many Europeans fans will have no problems identifying with the heavy international presence that the club has. But first and foremost, the New York Rangers are one of the most identifiable clubs in all of hockey and professional sports."
Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Petr Prucha, Michal Rozsival, Marek Malik (CZE), Henrik Lundqvist (SWE), Brendan Shanahan, Marc Staal (CAN), Fedor Tyutin (RUS), Scott Gomez, Chris Drury (USA), Marcel Hossa (SVK) represent the international diversity of the club. Among players in the farm system, who could be on the team next season, are Artem Anisimov (RUS), Lauri Korpikoski (FIN) and Thomas Pock (AUT). The Rangers' top selection in the 2007 NHL Draft was highly touted Russian forward Alexei Cherepanov (this season in Avangard Omsk, RUS).
The Rangers were also the first NHL club to recruit a European born and trained player when the "Blueshirts" signed Swedish forward Ulf Sterner in 1964.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk won the Russian championship in 2007 and was thus qualified to play for the European title at the IIHF European Champions Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia in early January. Metallurg defeated Czech champion Sparta Prague, 5-2, in the gold medal game to become the fourth consecutive Russian club to win the ECC title. (The ECC will from next season be replaced by the 12-team Champions Hockey League).
Metallurg, a four-time Russian league champion, is one of Europe's premier clubs of the modern era having won European titles also in 1999 and 2000. Metallurg is currently second in the 20-team Russian Superliga, twelve points behind leader Salavat Yulayev. Metallurg's roster includes Canadian goaltender Travis Scott, Czech forwards Jan Marek, and Jaroslav Kudrna, Slovak defenceman Martin Strbak and former NHLer Alexei Kaigorodov.
Defenceman Vitali Atyushin was named MVP of the European Champions Cup, Best Defenceman and selected by media to the tournament All-Star Team.
Metallurg - NY Rangers will be the first Russia vs. NHL club match-up for 17 years. The last time NHL clubs faced Russian teams was during a 21-game series between December 1990 and January 1991. Dynamo Moscow - Quebec Nordiques (4-1) on January 15th remains the last occasion when a Russian club faced an NHL team.
Since the first encounter between the New York Rangers and CSKA Moscow on December 28, 1975 at Madison Square Garden, NHL clubs have faced Russian/Soviet clubs for a total of 108 games. The Russian/Soviet teams have an all-time 57W-10T-41L-record against NHL clubs. (At the bottom of the page is a list of all NY Rangers games vs. European clubs as well as all NHL vs. NHL games involving the Rangers in Europe).
On the decision to appoint Swiss club SC Bern as host and to play the games at the PostFinance-Arena in Berne:
"Out of several choices we worked with, in the end nobody had the credentials of SC Bern and its arena," said Fasel. "SC Bern is one of the best-organised hockey clubs in Europe, they are in a successful phase and their fans are maybe the best in the world. Of the many options we had to consider for the Victoria Cup, we felt Berne had earned the right to host this inaugural event because of its devoted fan support."
For the sixth straight year in 2007-08, SC Bern had the best attendance of all European clubs with an average of 15,815 spectators. In 2005-06 the club set an all-time attendance record in Europe with 15,994. Currently, as the club is the run-away leader in the Swiss league, 16 points ahead of the runner-up, they average 15,975 fans per game.
The club, which is coached by the 17-year NHL-veteran and former Montreal Canadien and Buffalo Sabre John van Boxmeer, also has a very international roster which includes Canadians Christian Dubé, Sébastien Bordeleau, Ramzi Abid, Simon Gamache, Nathan Dempsey, American Mark Mowers and Swede Christian Berglund. All are familiar names to the fans of the NHL.
Dubé, who won the IIHF World U20 gold medal with Canada in 1996 and 1997, was the Rangers' 2nd round draft pick in 1995. He played 33 games with the Rangers 1996-99 before he moved back to Switzerland in 1999.
Coach John van Boxmeer won the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1976 and he played with the Canadiens in the 1975 New Year's Eve epic, the game that served as an informal starting point for the Victoria Cup.
The NHL also announced today that the Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will open the 2008-09 NHL regular season in Europe. This autumn, NHL Premiere in 2008 expands to two European locations: Prague, Czech Republic and Stockholm, Sweden.
For the first time in NHL history, on Saturday, October 4 and Sunday, October 5, two NHL games will be played in Europe on the same day. The Prague games feature the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning at the Sazka Arena. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will play in Stockholm at the Globe Arena. The two games per venue will count as one home and one away game in their NHL schedules.
The Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings opened the 2007-08 regular season in front of two sell-out crowds at the O2 Arena in London.
Link: List of New York Rangers international games