Curcio vows to carry on

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The Euro Can Cup, organizer Pat Curcio vows, won't fall victim to the one-and-done reality of so many other out-of-season sporting events.

The former London Knights assistant coach is entertaining early plans to run the second edition of the unique international hockey tournament here next summer even though he's set to start a minor pro coaching job in Utah this fall and attendance figures for many of the games were lower than anticipated.

"We'll take some time here first before we look back, but we had a great week," Curcio said. "It took a lot of hard work to organize, but it was fun. Right now, it looks like everyone involved is going to get their money and I'll definitely be looking to spread the word on the Euro Can Cup when I'm working in Utah (as an assistant for the ECHL's Grizzlies this year)."

Last night, London's Pro Knights team played Swiss elite club Zug in the tournament final at the John Labatt Centre. The week-long event raised $20,000 for the Shoot for a Cure charity.

Curcio came up with the Cup idea on the heels of taking a collection of Knights players and North American pros overseas on a European tour last summer. His former employer, the Knights, underwrote the event.

"It's a good idea to alternate the Cup between here and Europe each year," he said, "but the difficulty would be in finding one place to play over there. When we went last summer, we travelled to eight different cities to play."

As expected, games involving the recognizable Knights pros drew the biggest crowds.

But at $27 a ticket (Knights regular season home games are $16.50 per adult), those strictly involving largely unfamiliar European teams Zug, Linz and Munich did not stir up that much passion at the box office.

Based on the numbers, most games would've been better suited for the main bowl at the Western Fair Sports Centre.

"I would look at adding a second (North American) team," Curcio said. "Definitely, the interest (among the players) is there. But you'd want to keep it a four, five-team tournament. We hoped for a good final and we got it. The game between the Knights Pros and Zug (last Friday) -- the hits, the plays, the speed -- it was some of the best hockey that this arena has ever seen."

There was little doubt the hockey would be entertaining. The crowds were, too, with Linz Blackwings supporters forming conga lines and small pockets of Euro fans providing a decibel level 10 times their number in the arena and the spirit of goodwill at the beer tent beside the rink.

That led to several memorable moments. So, too, did the flexibility of the four rosters.

Like long-retired Dave Gagner scoring two goals in his first game and playing alongside his Edmonton Oilers son Sam.

Or Kitchener resident Todd Bertuzzi, the new Detroit Red Wings forward, joining the Pro Knights late in the week.

Because of the Cup's affiliation with the Shoot for A Cure spinal injury research charity, NHL and pro contracts could not be voided for injury. Some agents chose to buy extra insurance so their clients could play, anyway, but unsigned skaters knew going in they were playing dice with their careers.

"We're just going to continue to work with the teams who want their players to be a part of this," Curcio said. "It's disappointing when teams don't give the OK because it's the players who end up suffering. They want to be involved in this."

Perhaps next year, they'll get another chance.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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