SUN Hockey Pool

Hockey pride on the line

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Lord Stanley's mug, meet the Yuri Gagarin goblet.

If the Victoria Challenge becomes a reality, then the prestige of hockey's most prized trophy will be on the line each September, when its NHL winners travel across the ocean for a tournament involving Russia's KHL club champions.

Part of a four-team draw, that would include the Cup finalist and a yet-to-be decided European club champion from other competing nations, the proposal was unveiled Wednesday during a seminar on fixing an agenda for future global events at the Molson Canadian Hockey Summit. Standing near Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, KHL president Alexander Medvedev was quick to get the needle in first.

"I understand the hesitation, if the Gagarin Cup winner beats the Stanley Cup winner," Medvedev said dryly. "Some managers will say: "Oh, what the hell happened, we are damaging the Cup.' But I believe that's the wrong approach. The best team will win."

Burke says people needn't worry that Stanley will be sullied by the former Soviets.

"I have no interest in it," Burke snapped. "I don't know what the other GMs think, but it's the least appealing idea I've heard since I got here."

An NHL-European final would be guaranteed with the KHL and European entry facing off first. A test run is underway now with Red Bull sponsoring a tournament among teams in Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Burke was more receptive to guest speaker and former Swiss national coach Ralph Krueger's other ideas, such as staging the World Cup every two years between Olympics.

But Burke was taken aback by International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel's over-the-top reaction on Tuesday to possible NHL expansion in Europe, a concept at least a decade away if it ever happens. A defiant Fasel sounded like Winston Churchill during the Battle Of Britian, vowing the NHL invasion would be thrown back on the shore.

"Most European arenas clearly cannot generate NHL revenues," Burke argued. "Problem No. 2: What does that do to hockey in those countries? There are two teams in Stockholm now, Djurgardens and AIK. What happens when we plunk an NHL team there, take the big (Globe) arena and grab all the key dates?

"The answer is that one of them folds in 12 months and the second one struggles. Does that improve things for us?"


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