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Above the 49: Spengler Cup worth looking into for Canadian fans

By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The World Junior Hockey Championships may be used to getting all the hype this time of year but it is the Spengler Cup tournament that will be more appealing for NHL-starved fans especially north of the border.

The Spengler Cup, an annual invitational tournament hosted by Swiss hockey club HC Davos, tends to receive little fanfare on this continent given the fact it runs at the same time as the much-hyped World Junior event and, under normal circumstances, the NHL regular season.

The event runs this year from Boxing Day through Dec. 31 and will be broadcast in Canada on TSN and TSN2.

Although the tournament has been available to Canadian fans back home on television in recent years, it's clearly regarded as an inferior event and as such is given significantly less promotion.

That doesn't figure to be the case this year, however, with Canada's roster featuring no fewer than nine players that would have been NHL regulars this season.

Not just regulars, in fact, but players who would have had starring roles for their respective clubs including Oilers' netminder Devan Dubnyk and forwards Ryan Smyth and Sam Gagner, Senators' forward Jason Spezza and Islanders' forward John Tavares.

Other NHLers on the squad include; goaltender Jonathan Bernier of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, ex-Blues and now-Red Wings Carlo Colaiacovo, and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche.

The star-studded roster is a far cry from last year's squad that featured ex- Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford as the team's bench boss or even the team that Canada iced back in 2004 during the last NHL work stoppage that ultimately cost the league the entire season.

Last year's Canadian Spengler Cup entrant featured arguably just one household name in Marty Turco, the long-time Dallas Stars goaltender who had a brief stint with the Boston Bruins following his Spengler Cup experience.

The 2004 Canadian Spengler Cup squad had even less star power with the likes of former NHL journeymen Hnat Domenichelli and Jamie Heward headlining that squad.

Having the roster loaded with NHL superstars isn't likely going to make Canadian hockey fans care more about the outcome of the tournament compared to any other year but the event will still be a must-see for the simple fact it offers a rare opportunity to see this many NHL players compete together in a meaningful tournament.

In addition to Canada's loaded roster, there are a number of other NHL players competing in the tournament including fellow Canadian Joe Thornton playing with the host team which also features Chicago's Patrick Kane and Dallas' Loui Eriksson, Jason Pominville and Marcel Goc playing with Adler Mannheim, and Max Talbot playing with HC Fribourg-Gotteron.

All that said, hardcore hockey fans will still wake up on Boxing Day with their attention firmly focused on the World Junior Hockey championships, but NHL fans will no doubt make the effort to check-in with the Spengler Cup - something which won't be too difficult considering the friendlier game-time schedule compared to the World Juniors.

After all, with the NHL on the verge of self-annihilation, it could be the last time in a long while before fans will get to see these players in action again.

12/26 11:03:29 ET