It all started when a group of hockey-loving Canadian bankers working in New York decided to slap a puck around a local rink.
Their game didn't stay casual for long.
When the team from Bank of Nova Scotia defeated CIBC Wood Gundy in that first face-off seven years ago, Scotiabank was so pleased it bought a winners trophy, jerseys for the team, and named the event The Scotia Challenge.
"It's a chance to have some fun on the ice," said Steven Lockhart, a corporate banker with Bank of Nova Scotia and organizer of what has become a yearly contest.
In the tournament, held each April, players compete on the ice against colleagues and rivals they normally see only over conference tables.
After the games, winners exercise their bragging rights amid a general air of camaraderie.
True to their Canadian roots, many people at both CIBC Wood Gundy (the securities subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) and Scotiabank have played hockey since they were little, Mr. Lockhart said. "I've always played-in Canada, in Chicago, and now in pickup games in New Jersey, where I live," he said.
For this group, hockey and business go hand in glove.
"The best calling officers are well rounded and can talk about anything, from what they read in the American Banker or New York Times to hockey," Mr. Lockhart said. Many of his clients are hockey players themselves, he added, and they always want to hear about the tournament.
This year, Scotiabank did more than just talk about the tournament with a client. Short a player, it invited Tommy Perrson, of Volvo Group Treasury North America, Montvale, N.J., to play on the team.
"It's a real good way to cement a relationship," Mr. Lockhart said.
Because the players also do business with each other, the tournament's rules are strictly nonviolent: Absolutely no checking allowed. But some players end up in the penalty box anyway, said Peter Smith, managing director of the media corporate finance group at CIBC Wood Gundy.
Last year, Citibank was the first American bank allowed in the tournament, and that was only because Royal Bank Dominion Securities couldn't muster enough players to compete.
The Americans made an impressive debut.
"I had been badgering Scotiabank" to let Citibank in the tournament, said Jonathan Calder, who works on Citi's trading desk. Drawing from the bank's vast population in New York, he quickly assembled a team that went on to defeat Bank of Nova Scotia and Toronto Dominion by a combined score of 15-2.
At the end of the weekend, Citibank walked away with the Scotia Cup.
"The Canadians were disappointed to have lost to a team of Yanks, but pleased that Citibank brought a new level of vitality to the tournament," an issue of Citibank's in-house newspaper proclaimed.
This year, Citibank entered at the last minute, and did not make a particularly strong showing. It was on the short end of a 3-1 score to CIBC in the opening game, then lost a consolation match against Scotiabank 7-6.
In an exciting championship game, CIBC Wood Gundy trailed Toronto Dominion 2-0, then came back to tie the score in the last eight minutes of play.
After a scoreless overtime period they went to a shootout. Toronto Dominion won 3-2.
So far, the number of teams each year has been limited to four, but with other banks in New York clamoring, the event may get bigger.
Chase Manhattan Corp. wants in, said Mr. Lockhart, but the Canadians are not sure it's a good idea. He suspected-apparently jokingly-that Chase's lending chief, Jimmy Lee, would hire pros to play the tournament. And that wouldn't be fair.