|Jakub Štěpánek tends goal for the Czech|
Repubic against Sweden during Sunday's
Channel One Cup action. Photo: hokej.cz
The four top hockey nations of Europe each host a round-robin tournament involving each other over the course of the season; the team with the most points cumulatively is said to be the unofficial European champion. The IIHF has not crowned a European champion since 1991.
The teams are composed entirely of players who play in European leagues. While these countries will use rosters that largely include NHLers during the IIHF World Championships in May, they usually include some domestic players. The Euro Hockey Tour gives domestic players some experience on the international stage and the opportunity to audition for World Championship roster spots.
Some Canadians might be more familiar with the Channel One Cup by its old name, the Izvestia Cup. Canada competed in that tournament throughout the eighties and early nineties, winning the event in 1987. That Canadian team was composed mostly of the same team that played at the Winter Olympics in Calgary two months later, and behind the goaltending of Sean Burke they beat a star-studded Soviet team 3-2 in the final game.
By beating Finland 6-2 on Sunday, Russia won this year's Channel One Cup on home ice with a perfect 3-0 record, for 9 points. The Czech Republic finished with 5, followed by Sweden with 3, and Finland with 1.
With two of the four tournaments now complete, the 2010-11 edition of the Euro Hockey Tour is now at its halfway point. Russia leads with 15 points, followed by Sweden with 9, Finland with 7, and the Czech Republic with 5. Finland hosted the Karjala Cup in November. Tournaments are still to be played in Sweden in January and the Czech Republic in April.
The Tipsport Extraliga returns to action on Tuesday, when Sparta Praha hosts Kometa Brno. The other 12 teams play Wednesday in their last games before Christmas.