NHL's success in Europe grows as league increases pre-season presence there

GYI0060996366-ninoniederreiter-bbennett.jpgThe NHL will once again be closing out part of the pre-season and starting the regular season in Europe this year and while some fans in North America may grumble a bit about their favorite teams starting off so far from home, the effect it’s having in Europe is becoming far more pronounced. If you think that love is only coming from Europe for the NHL, the NHL is equally smitten with Europe as Matthew Coutts of the National Post tells us.

For years the potential for NHL teams in Europe, perhaps an entire division in London, Prague, Stockholm, Zurich, Berlin and Helsinki — the same cities that hosted games in recent years — has been considered and salivated over.

Two years ago, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly called it a dream he would like to see happen within a decade. The players’ association has also been open to it. But that does not make it any closer to reality.

“We are a business that is ruled by hockey interest, and I think the ability to expand our business in any way is always something that is considered,” Yaffe said. “That doesn’t mean the ultimate focus is develop a division or expansion into Europe. There are a lot of major challenges to doing that.

“The reality is, we are a North American sports league that is focused on building the strength and viability of 30 clubs across the U.S. and Canada. That is the primary business and the primary focus.”

The thought of the NHL expanding into Europe is mind-boggling at the least, especially with teams struggling financially in North America (not that that didn’t stop us from speculating on expansion), but it’s clear here that the NHL is making their presence more apparent in Europe for a different reason. The NHL wants to attract more of the world’s best players to the league and inspire more players, regardless of where they’re from, to come and play in the biggest and best professional league in the world. While there’s nothing at all wrong with the Swiss, Finnish, Swedish or German elite leagues, the NHL is great melting pot for talent and wanting the best in the world to come there only makes perfect sense.

In the meantime, sending six teams to Europe this year to kick off the season will help drum up interest in the league in Ireland, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic and that means selling team merchandise and helping to excite the fans that already are there and rooting for their countrymen. While it’s fun to pick on the NHL for some of their other marketing ideas, taking advantage of Europe’s interest in the sports is a smart decision.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett – Getty Images)

Scroll Down For:

    The Caps say they’ve ‘matured’ and have ‘good poise’ now — we’ll see tonight

    DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 20:  Joel Ward #42, Alex Ovechkin #8, Nate Schmidt #88 and Brooks Orpik #44 of the Washington Capitals take a break on the bench as head coach Barry Trotz (L) and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe (R) oversee the action against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on November 20, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Capitals defeated the Avalanche 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The Washington Capitals — desperate for a win tonight in Pittsburgh — are vowing to stick to the plan, keep their composure, and not let a certain 21-year-old netminder get into their heads.

    “I think that’s where this team has matured,” said coach Barry Trotz, per CSN Washington. “We have good poise. You’ve seen that all year with our team. We don’t get rattled often. We do get, I would say, very determined at times and we’ve shown a lot of resiliency all year. That’s why we were able to have the record we did. We didn’t let things bother us too much. And we’ve got a good leadership group that when things maybe aren’t going the way you want, they seem to be able to put it back on the rails for us. I think that’s the growth of our team the last two years.”

    In Game 3, the Caps had every reason to feel like the hockey gods were out to get them. They put 49 shots on Penguins goalie Matt Murray, but were only able to beat him twice. They lost, 3-2, and now must win tonight in order to avoid falling into a 3-1 series hole.

    In Game 4, the Capitals will have a major advantage, as their opponents will be without two of their top defensemen, Kris Letang (suspended) and Olli Maatta (injured).

    So not only is it a game the Caps need to win, it’s a game they’ll be expected to win.

    That means pressure.

    And pressure can lead to panic.

    According to Trotz, the Caps used to be guilty of changing the plan when things didn’t go their way. They would play too much as individuals. They would play right into the opposition’s hands.

    But not anymore.

     

     

    “I think what this group has learned is that you stay to the plan, you execute and do the job well,” said Trotz.

    “If you do that, it will turn your way.”

    No hearings scheduled for Boyle on Hickey hit, or Hickey on Drouin hit

    3 Comments

    Doesn’t look like there’ll be supplemental discipline coming from Tampa Bay’s crazy 5-4 OT win over the Isles at Barclays last night.

    Per the Times, both Brian Boyle and Thomas Hickey have avoided hearings for their big hits — Boyle’s on Hickey, Hickey’s on Jonathan Drouin.

    An NHL spokesman has confirmed to PHT that no hearings have been scheduled.

    Both hits went unpenalized, but were focal points of Tuesday’s game.

    The impact of the Hickey hit forced Drouin from the contest for a lengthy period of time, though Drouin did return to set up Nikita Kucherov‘s game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in regulation.

    Boyle’s hit on Hickey was followed by Boyle scoring the game-winning OT goal roughly 10 seconds later.

    It also led to Isles head coach Jack Capuano venting his frustrations in his postgame presser.

    “It’s a direct shot to the head,” Capuano said, per ESPN. “I mean, probably going to get suspended a game. That’s what I mean. The whole game, it shouldn’t come down to that. [Referee] is standing right there. I’ve watched it numerous times now. Those are the types of hits that we’re trying to eliminate from our game.

    “It’s just too bad that it had to end that way. It’s frustrating because it’s right there. The play is right there. He’s looking right at it. The league can look at it if they want, but I’ve watched it four or five times, maybe more, and it’s just frustrating it had to end in that particular way with a head shot.”

    Capuano didn’t have an update on Hickey following the contest.

    Game 4 of this series goes on Friday at Barclays, so there could still be developments forthcoming. The league holds the right to schedule a hearing later (should it be deemed appropriate), and there will likely be an update on Hickey in the coming days.

    Related: Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

    Report: Ducks sign ’15 first-rounder Larsson

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Jacob Larsson poses after being selected 27th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Though it’s yet to be announced by the club, Swedish d-man Jacob Larsson has reportedly signed on with the Anaheim Ducks — the club that selected him in the first round (27th overall) of the 2015 draft.

    Larsson, 19, is set to join Anaheim’s AHL club in San Diego, per Hockeysverige. The Gulls are currently in the midst of the Calder Cup playoffs, embroiled in a series against Ontario.

    Larsson came into the ’15 draft fairly highly touted. He was pegged by Central Scouting as one of the top-10 international skaters available, and ended up the seventh defenseman off the board (after Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, Jakub Zboril, Thomas Chabot and Noah Juulsen.)

    Per Hockeysverige, Larsson is still under contract to SHL club Frolunda for another year, and will be loaned back to the club for the ’16-17 campaign.

    Ergo, this trip overseas appears to be so Larsson can get a taste of pro hockey in North America.

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

    Stanley Cup
    2 Comments

    There’s just one game scheduled for tonight, but it should be an exciting one and as you’ve likely guessed, you will be able to watch it via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Washington at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

    Pittsburgh holds a 2-1 series lead, but this game in particular will be a big test for the Penguins as they’ll be without defensemen Kris Letang (suspended) and Olli Maatta (upper body). The contest will air on NBCSN and if you want to stream it, you can do so by clicking here.

    In the meantime, here are some relevant links:

    If there’s an expansion draft, which goalie should Pittsburgh protect?

    Penguins bring up Sestito and Oleksy

    Video: Letang suspended one game for late hit with ‘significant head contact’ on Johansson

    With Letang suspended, Schultz out to ‘prove a lot of people wrong’ if he gets the call in Game 4