While 23 of Canada’s brightest young talents are participating at the World Junior Hockey Championships, another group of washed-up, older fellas are out in Davos, Switzerland looking for a chance to win a championship for their country. While the fact that most of these players have already seen any success they would have had in the NHL by the time they’re playing in this tournament, it’s still a special moment to say you played for your country, especially in the oldest invitational tournament in the world.
The Spengler Cup has made cult heroes out of guys who may have otherwise just faded into obscurity. For others, such as Curtis Joseph, it helped add to an impressive resume that may already contain Olympic and World Championship medals.
So who are the best to ever represent the team in red, white and black at the annual post-Christmas event? It’s a tough group to decide, with Canada winning twelve titles since 1984. Many great players have suited up for the country, but here are the best from every position that could really make-up a Spengler Cup all-star team.
Goaltender: Curtis Joseph –When looking back at Curtis Joseph’s hockey career, his Spengler Cup performance in 2007 likely won’t stand out as his greatest moment. But that just speaks to how good of a career Joseph actually had. A gold medalist with Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Joseph had his first real chance to prove himself on the national team with his lone Spengler tournament at the age of 40. The oldest player on the team at the time, Joseph was a free-agent looking for work in the NHL, and in order to show his worth at that age to teams in the league, he took part in the legendary tournament to keep in shape. Joseph did a spectacular job, recording a 1.95 GAA in three games to lead Canada to their first Spengler Cup title since 2003. Joseph, who most recently served as the goaltending coach of the OJHL’s Newmarket Hurricanes, caught the eye of the Calgary Flames after the tournament, who offered him a contract following the tournament to act as the backup to Miikka Kiprusoff. It may have been a short stint for the famous hockey goaltender in Davos, but it’s likely the tournament has to be up high in one of his personal hockey moments of his career.
Defense: Micki Dupont – Ah, the famous Micki Dupont. He’s practically a Team Canada hockey legend these days, having played five of his seven Spengler Cup tournaments with his country since 2005. A long-time hockey star while skating in Europe, Dupont did play 23 games in the NHL with the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins before making the trek back out to Switzerland in 2008. Now reunited back with the first European team he ever skated for, Eisbären Berlin in Germany, the two-way defenseman is always a huge contributor when he suits up for Canada, putting up a point-per-game average in four games at last year’s tournament. His best single tournament, however, could be his 2010 Spengler performance, putting up five points in five games while consistently performing at the top of his game in every contest. Heading into the 2015 event as the 8th top scorer in Canadian history, Dupont’s 18 points in 27 games are the most by any defenseman ever in the tournament, and at the age of 35, he could end up eventually beating out Stacy Roest for the top scoring Canadian player period in the near future.
Defense: Derrick Walser – While the 37-year-old’s playing days are likely numbered, the current player-coach of the EIHL’s Belfast Giants will likely be remembered for his contributions to the Canadian Spengler Cup team during his career. A former NHLer with 91 career games with the Columbus Blue Jackets to his credit, Walser has played in 19 Spengler Cup games during his career, posting nine points over five tournaments with Canada and Eisbären Berlin. Walser had a solid stint with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the NLA, posting 89 points in 146 games from the blue line. His 2014 Spengler Cup performance was easily his most memorable, grabbing three assists in four games as Canada barely missed out on the finals following an incredible semi-final game loss to Geneve-Servette. Walser is currently trailing Shawn Heins for second in all-time points for a Canadian defenseman while sitting fourth overall, but with seven fewer games to his credit, Walser is definitely one of the best defensemen ever to skate for Team Canada. Not too shabby for a guy with less than 100 NHL games to his credit.
Left Wing: Hnat Domenichelli – While Domenichelli is definitely deserving of making this group based off of offensive production alone, there is one thing that may make this choice controversial. After playing for Canada for the last time at the 2008 Spengler Cup, Domenichelli switched to a Swiss passport and played for the other red and white team at the 2010 Olympics. Domenichelli, who would play in 21 games for Switzerland over a two-year period, saw action in 24 contests with Canada (five at the 1996 World Juniors), winning just a single tournament during his time playing for his country. His 2003 Spengler Cup performance was quite impressive, putting up eight points in just five games to win his first, and only, tournament title while easily having one of the best performances of anyone at the tournament. Finishing his NLA career as a 1.09 PPG average player, Domenichelli called an end to his career two seasons ago after finishing with 267 NHL games played with Calgary, Atlanta and Minnesota, as well as in 442 career NLA games that spanned ten seasons. While the former junior hockey star may have never panned out the way some people expected, Domenichelli is easily one of the best Spengler Cup performers of all-time and can always consider himself a gold medalist with Team Canada.
Centre: Jan Alston – If you only ever follow North American hockey, you probably have absolutely no idea who the heck Jan Alston is. To be fair, the Granby, Quebec native never returned back to Canada to play after dominating the QMJHL scoring charts with the Saint-Jean Lynx/Castors for four years in the late-80’s. Alston spent his entire professional career playing in Europe, making a huge name for himself in places like Switzerland and Germany. But did you know the 46-year-old will always be remembered for being one of the most dominant players the Spengler Cup has ever had? Not just for Team Canada, but his 22 points in 17 games puts him third on the all-time scoring list while his 1.29 PPG is the most of any player with over ten games played at the tournament. Alston represented Canada four times from 2001-2004, never failing to put up less than five points in a tournament, resulting in the star centreman to always stay at least at the point-per-game mark through every event. Alston, the fifth all-time top Canadian scorer in the Swiss NLA league, finished with the Spengler Cup titles in his career while also finishing runner-up to Davos in 2001. He proved you didn’t have to be an NHLer to have an incredible hockey career and while he may never be remembered like other cult hockey stars, Alston seriously deserves to be on this list.
Right Wing: Jean-Yves Roy – Canada’s presence on the right winger can easily be considered to be its weakest link, but after 16 points in 20 games, Roy is known as the best. A 46-year-old retired hockey player from Rosemère, Quebec, Roy was no stranger to player internationally for his country, having skated at the 1994 Olympic Games, as well as in various other events over time. A two-time Hobey Baker Award Finalist for best NCAA hockey player, Roy played in 61 NHL games during his career, splitting time with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators. His NHL stint was short-lived, eventually signing with Villacher SV in Austria in 1998. It was that year that Roy would make his Spengler Cup debut, helping Canada to their fourth straight tournament championship with a six-point performance in five games. He’d miss the next year, and while he wasn’t able to match his offensive output from the first event, he did bring home two more championships to give him three during his time with Team Canada. That’s an impressive number for a guy who really struggled to play back in North America, but sometimes you can find the right opportunity anywhere in the world. Roy is living proof.
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