Spengler Cup and World Junior Hockey Championship

Two hockey tournaments going on right now. The Spengler Cup is an annual tournament in Switzerland for individuals playing in Europe. A lot of former players head overseas for various reasons. Could be the end of their career, maybe they couldn’t cut it in the NHL or perhaps they just enjoy the less rigorous schedule to balance hockey and family life. The tournament itself is pretty entertaining with some tight games. It hasn’t caught on in North America but is very popular in Europe.

The World Juniors Hockey Championships (WJHC) on the other hand, is a tournament for players under 21, who for the most part, are highly touted draft picks with a lot of potential. Ten teams compete for gold, with Canada and US being heavy favorites this year. This tournament is broadcasted by TSN so it gets tons of hype and coverage. It’s a big ratings draw in North America…not so much anywhere else.

So why is the WJHC a bigger draw than the Spengler Cup?

The Spengler Cup has mostly players in the European leagues, so we don’t know much about them. The ones we do recognize are former NHL players past their prime. On the flip side, the WJHC players are all unknowns as well since junior league games aren’t huge draws. Both tournaments have a Team Canada, so national pride can’t be the factor either.

The media machine known as TSN does a pretty good job boosting the WJHC. Player profiles, game analysis, commentators, and expanded coverage on TV and their website all contribute.

The big difference between the two tournaments is the linking and alignment of fans to the product.

The potential of young players is heavily emphasized as most of them are already drafted or will be eligible next summer. The player will always have a familiar NHL team attached to them at all times. Working with the familiar constructs in a viewers mind builds that attachment right away. Spengler Cup broadcasts have less to work with when trying to connect with the familiar. Former players are long forgotten and have established themselves in the European leagues.

Second, since there’s potential in the WJHC, fans have something to take away from the broadcast and work with. The player has time to become a professional, so a fan can watch them develop, follow their stats and make their own judgments over time. It’s also easier and more interesting to discuss potential players with other fans. Guesses can be made about how good/bad this player can be and then eventually be verified. Former players are is less relevant to fans with no real future and thus, less interesting to work with.

It’s easy to blame a mega sports network like TSN for over-hyping an event, but really its collective fan behaviour that dictates what gets coverage and what doesn’t.


2 thoughts on “Spengler Cup and World Junior Hockey Championship

  1. The real reason why the WJHC is more popular – because Canadians are the inventors of hockey and we are maniacs about this sport and we prefer to see the Canadian up and comers – the newbies, the next Gretzky, rather than those who have lost their NHL mojo. Besides it’s easier for us to cheer for a hockey event that is so close to home; rather than across the big pond.

    Another thing is because Crazy Canucks are just so good at our national sport. Other sports, meh, we’re not so good at unfortunately. Hence, Canadian viewership of those sports are not as popular as hockey, whether those other sports are played here or abroad.

    Europeans have their other sports that they are good at i.e., football aka soccer. Americans are crazy about their sports i.e., football (NFL), basketball, and baseball. When these sports events are played in their countries, European, South American, Japanese, American, fans are rabid about them, too. Hockey is not so popular in those parts of this world.

    That being said, we watch ALL things hockey in this household. 1) NHL 2)WJHC 3) Spengler…in that order of importance or whatever is playing when the others are not on the boob tube. Now and then when no hocky is on, or between periods, HGTV is on.

    • Thanks for posting.

      There’s no doubt as to how important the game is to Canadians. It’s so engrained in the culture and is one of the few sports Canadians dominate. Can’t argue with you on that one.

      I find it’s the ability to follow and attach ones self with the juniors that makes it more popular than the Spengler Cup. A junior player has an unknown future making it more interesting to guess and follow. Speculation is at the heart of sports fandom (guessing Stanley Cup winners, projecting player points for a fantasy league, sports gambling). Ex-players at the Spengler Cup have reached their potential and have a long history already.

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