The Victoria Cup is an annual game played between one or more European teams - determined by the Champions Hockey League (for the 2008-2009 season by the 2008 European Champions Cup respectively) - and one or more NHL challengers.
The first Victoria Cup, which was also one of the highlights of the IIHF's 100 Year Anniversary celebrations, was played at PostFinance Arena in Berne, Switzerland between the winner of the 2008 European Champions Cup, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Russia), and the New York Rangers on October 1, 2008. The Rangers edged Metallurg, 4-3.
One day earlier, on September 30, the New York Rangers beat the host club SC Bern 8-1 in an exhibition game.
"The Victoria Cup is a joined venture between the IIHF and the NHL and the first annual world club competition for a trophy endorsed by both the IIHF and the NHL. This competition will also carry a substantial financial reward," said René Fasel, the president 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.
"This is a milestone for international hockey and for the relationship between the IIHF and the National Hockey League," said 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."
Since the first NHL vs. Europe 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 109 games. The Russian/Soviet teams have an all-time 57W-10T-42L-record against NHL clubs.
The IIHF chose Ovation AG in Zug, Switzerland, as the agency to develop the commercial aspects of the Champions Hockey League and the Victoria Cup. René Fasel said of the partnership: "We are very fortunate to have an agency with the integrity and experience of Ovation to lead the marketing and commercial development. The agency is led by Craig Thompson, one of the founding fathers of the UEFA Champions League, who has all the experience necessary to deliver the Champions Hockey League."
The IIHF, NHL, and NHLPA announced in May 2009 that the Chicago Blackhawks will be the North American representative in the second Victoria Cup to be played on Tuesday, September 29, 2009, at the 11,000-seat Hallenstadion in Zurich against the ZSC Lions, champions of the Champions Hockey League.
The Chicago Blackhawks established an NHL club record this season by attracting an average of 21,783 to their 40 home dates at United Center (not including the 40,818 who filled Wrigley Field for the Winter Classic vs. Detroit on New Year's Day).
This makes Chicago not only the best drawing hockey club in North America, but also in the world. The Blackhawks were playing to 106% capacity which is a 31% increase from last season and a 72% increase from 06-07.
“We are extremely pleased to accept the NHL’s selection of the Chicago Blackhawks as the challenger for the second edition of the Victoria Cup,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “Their fantastic attendance figures prove that the Blackhawks are one of the most recognizable and popular clubs in all of hockey. Chicago has always maintained strong and committed support among European hockey fans.”
This will be the NHL club’s first visit to Europe since 1992, but it will mark the first time that Chicago – founded in 1926 – will play against a European club in Europe. The two games the club played in London, England 17 years ago were exhibitions against NHL rival Montreal.
The Blackhawks’ tour of Europe will continue after the Victoria Cup when the team travels to Helsinki, Finland to play the Florida Panthers on October 3 and 4 as part of the NHL’s 2009 Premiere Series.
“The Chicago Blackhawks are a team with a rich history, a vibrant present and a bright future,” said National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman. “They are outstanding representatives of our league and an ideal choice for participation in this event, as the Victoria Cup will mark the fourth consecutive decade in which the Blackhawks have faced international competition."
It is also the first time that the ZSC Lions (founded in 1930) will play against an NHL club. Last season, SC Bern became the first Swiss club to meet an NHL team when they lost 8-1 to the New York Rangers in an exhibition game that preceded the inaugural Victoria Cup.
The upcoming Victoria Cup will also feature an exhibition game at Zurich’s Hallenstadion on September 28 as part of the event. The Chicago Blackhawks will play Swiss champion HC Davos.
The selection of HC Davos for the exhibition game was a natural choice according to IIHF President René Fasel:
“As Zurich’s sensational Champions Hockey League win in January was a win also for Swiss hockey, we feel that there is no better club than the 29-time national champion to represent the soul and the history of Swiss hockey,” said Fasel. “Davos being the reigning Swiss champion makes it even more compelling.”
Two of Davos’ best forwards, Reto von Arx and Czech Josef Marha, played earlier with Chicago. Von Arx became the first Swiss skater to play a full NHL game and also the first Swiss to score a goal in the NHL when he skated for the Blackhawks during the 2000-2001 season.
“This year’s Victoria Cup game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the ZSC Lions will provide great exposure to our members and the NHL game,” said Paul Kelly, NHLPA executive director. “The NHLPA's longstanding commitment to international hockey competition is further displayed through this venture."
Chicago has two European goaltenders; Russia’s Nikolai Khabibulin and France’s Cristobal Huet, who starred in the Swiss league with HC Lugano before he went to the NHL in 2002. Sweden’s Samuel Påhlsson, recognized as one of the best defensive forwards in the league, was acquired by the ‘Hawks at the trading deadline in March.
“Zurich and Chicago are two of the great sport and culture cities in the world and we are working to add a cultural exchange element into this year’s Victoria Cup experience. Last year proved that the Victoria Cup is a brilliant concept and that fans on both sides of the Atlantic are excited about the NHL vs. CHL match up. We are expecting tickets for this year's event to sell very quickly,” says Ovation COO Tom Huston.
Monday, September 28, Exhibition Game: HC Davos vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Tuesday, September 29, Victoria Cup: ZSC Lions Zurich vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Logo represents both continents
Designwerk, the London-based agency commissioned to create the Champions Hockey League logo, has also designed the Victoria Cup logo as part of the extended brand family.
Twelve hockey sticks, six on each side, come together in a V shape to represent the opposing European and North American powers who will face-off against each other to win this coveted challenge. Each hockey stick symbolizes not only the clubs themselves, but the obstacles they have overcome to get this far, uniting both sides in victory at the V’s center.
The Victoria Cup serves as the annual season opener for the Champions Hockey League and winning it is the ultimate goal of any participating club. Thus, the logo’s blue tints visually tie into those of the Champions Hockey League identity.
A 21st century design for the Victoria Cup Trophy
The Milan-based company GDE BERTONI, one of the world’s greatest trophy makers, has been commissioned to manufacture the trophy which is currently in production. Best known for creating the FIFA WORLD CUP Trophy, the company has also produced other notable designs including the UEFA Super Cup, the UEFA Cup and the Olympic Order. The design for the Victoria Cup trophy however is like none they have seen before and they are delighted with the challenge.
Twenty-first century materials are being used to create this cup in harmony with the notion that it literally inaugurates a new era for European hockey. The Victoria Cup diverges from traditional trophy designs: Twelve Hockey sticks, six per side and made of transparent Perspex, sit atop a marble base and come together in a V-shaped cup. A light source will illuminate the cup from inside and when the stadium lights are turned down, a blue aura will emanate from the cup bringing the logo itself into three-dimensional life.