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Chicago-Zurich for Victoria Cup

Original Six Blackhawks to represent the NHL

10-05-09
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Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin and Jonathan Toews will meet CHL winner ZSC Lions Zurich for the 2009 Victoria Cup. Photos: NHL

BERNE – The IIHF, NHL, and NHLPA today announced that the Chicago Blackhawks will be the North American representative in the second annual 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 ZSC Lions Zurich defeated Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 5-0, on January 28, 2009 to win the inaugural Champions Hockey League title, becoming the European club champion and thus earning the right to challenge for the Victoria Cup.

The New York Rangers won the inaugural Victoria Cup on October 1, 2008, defeating Russia’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 4-3, in Berne, Switzerland.

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.”

“Our dream is to have the Stanley Cup champions play in the Victoria Cup,” Fasel said. “I know this is difficult because the winner isn’t known until June, and we have too much to organize to wait until then to announce the NHL team. However, I hope Chicago wins the Cup this year,” he finished with a smile, referring to the Hawks’ excellent playoff run so far which has seen the team take a 3-2 series lead against Vancouver in the Conference semi-finals.

“Chicago is an Original Six team with tremendous history,” added Ken Yaffe, Senior Vice-President of NHL International. “We hope the Victoria Cup continues to be an annual event which sees the best of the NHL play the best club team in Europe.”

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 in a statement from New York. “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 a Swiss team to be announced soon.

Paul Kelly, NHLPA executive director, was also present at the announcement. “The players of the NHL believe strongly in international competition,” he explained. “They want to play in the Olympics; many of them are here in Berne for the World Championship; they’ll be playing soon in another World Cup; and the Victoria Cup is also great for the development of hockey in Europe.”

Of course, the upcoming Victoria Cup game follows on the heels of the successful inaugural event which saw Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers score the winning goal in the final minute against Metallurg, played in Berne. It was a dramatic game played at a high level of speed and skill.

Kelly sees the Hawks as a perfect choice for 2009 for several reasons. “Not only is it a team with great history, but it has several great young players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – who have previous international experience – as well as several European players.”

 

“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,” Kelly continued. “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. 

Last season the Victoria Cup was the launch party to the first Champions Hockey League (CHL) season as well, the most successful such venture in IIHF history. Yaffe admitted that the NHL is exploring the possibility of becoming an investor in the second CHL season, although nothing has yet been decided. Fasel confirmed that all details of the CHL would be known and made public no later than June 10.

“We have to realize that having the Victoria Cup in Switzerland two years in a row is very special,” said Craig Thompson, CEO of Ovation Sports, the marketing agency of the Victoria Cup. “This event is such a great way to start the new season of the Champions Hockey League. And now that the reigning champion ZSC Lions has not qualified for the next CHL season, we are sure that they have extra motivation to create yet another upset, this time against the Blackhawks.”

The Victoria Cup was introduced by the IIHF during its 100 Year Anniversary to encourage competition between NHL and European club teams. The annually awarded trophy was named to recognize the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, the place where the first organized hockey game was played. The rink, originally located between Drummond and Stanley streets, south of St. Catherine Street, measured almost exactly 200’ x 85’, the size of a standard Canadian rink ever since.

ANDREW PODNIEKS & IIHF STAFF

Chicago vs. European teams

Date

Venue

Game

Score

Jan. 7, 1976

Chicago (USA)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Krylya Sovietov Moscow (URS)

2-4

Dec. 31, 1977

Chicago (USA)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Poldi Kladno (TCH)

4-6

Jan. 4, 1989

Chicago (USA)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Dinamo Riga (URS)

4-1

Jan. 7, 1990

Chicago (USA)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. CSKA Moscow (URS)

4-6

Jan. 1, 1991

Chicago (USA)

Chicago Blackhawks vs. CSKA Moscow (URS)

2-4

 

Chicago vs. NHL teams in Europe

Date

Venue

Game

Score

Sep. 12, 1992

London (GBR)

Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks

3-2

Sep. 13, 1992

London (GBR)

Montreal Canadiens vs. Chicago Blackhawks

4-5 OT

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