by PuckStopsHere on 10/08/11 at 03:28 PM ET
For the past several years the NHL season has begun with a few teams playing their first couple of games overseas - most commonly in Europe. For the NHL this is an important piece of their marketing. The NHL teams may be based in North America but they have an international following. Fans overseas pay to watch games and buy NHL memorabilia. Giving some of them a chance to see an NHL game firsthand helps the league grow its game.
This year the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers are starting their seasons in Europe this year. They play two games in Stockholm, Sweden, one in Berlin, Germany and one in Helsinki, Finland. These are some of the major hockey playing cities in Europe. It is important to the NHL to establish a presence in them because the KHL also wants to move into these cities and establish their presence first. Eventually the NHL will want to expand out of North America and when they do, these are their target cities.
For the teams involved, starting the season in Europe is no picnic. It costs them a home game in front of their fans in their home arena. It significantly increases their travel early in the season. In the past teams starting their seasons overseas have had a slow start in the standings. This has been bad enough that it has led to the firing of coaches.
From the position of a North American fan, there are a few games that occur so early in the day that I am not ready to watch them yet.
This is a situation where the good of the NHL is not in the good of the teams involved in the overseas games. Teams that play in these games are making a sacrifice. The hope is that by the end of the season this sacrifice will be small and won`t make any significant impact on their post-season chances.
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