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)

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    Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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    The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

    On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

    Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially announced because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

    Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

    The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

    According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

    Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.:

     

    NHL admits off-side challenge error that cost Avalanche a goal

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    The NHL admitted on Friday that a decision denying the Colorado Avalanche a tying goal against the St. Louis was wrong.

    Mikko Rantanen’s goal late in the third period was overturned after Sven Andrighetto was ruled to be off-side following a video review challenge issued by the Blues.

    Now here’s where the fun starts.

    Because Andrighetto was not ruled off-side by the linesman when he touches the puck in the Blues’ zone, when he leaves and re-enters the zone that’s considered a (clean) second zone entry. So the goal should have counted and the Avs should have had a power play for a failed off-side challenge.

    Here’s the NHL’s statement:

    “St. Louis requested a Coach’s Challenge to determine whether Sven Andrighetto of Colorado was off-side prior to the Avalanche goal. The video review decision determined the play was off-side but that determination was based on a play prior to the puck clearing the zone. 

    Per Rule 78. 7 (Note 1) Coach’s Challenge: ‘Goals will only be reviewed for a potential “Off-Side” infraction if: a) the puck does not come out of the attacking zone again; or (b) all members of the attacking team do not clear the attacking zone again, between the time of the “Off-Side” play and the time the goal is scored.

    Although there was an off-side, it occurred prior to the puck clearing the zone which nullifies any goal review related to that off-side. The entry in to the zone immediately prior to the goal was on-side, therefore the goal should have counted.”

    Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, appearing on Sportnet’s Hockey Central at Noon on Friday, said he believes the wording of the rule will change in the future.

    “The call on the ice was correct,” he said. “The wording in the rulebook is wrong, and that’s where we’re going to have to work with. I think that’s why the rulebook always changes because you come up with unintended consequences, and that was one of them. I don’t think anyone that watched the game last night think that’s a goal we want to count.”

    Let’s just go with NHL ’94 rules and turn off-side off, yeah? That’ll stop games from being paused and goals being taken off the board because a player’s skate blade was a millimeter off-side entering the offensive zone.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Canucks’ Gudbranson suspended 1 game for boarding Vatrano (Video)

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    Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson will miss Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres after he was suspended one game for boarding Frank Vatrano of the Boston Bruins.

    The hit occurred early in the first period during Thursday’s 6-3 Bruins victory. Gudbranson was given a majors for boarding and fighting, along with a game misconduct. The Bruins would take advantage with three power play goals. Vatrano would retun to the game later in the period.

    Here’s the Department of Player Safety’s explanation:

    Look at many of the suspensions the NHL’s DoPS has handed out for boarding and it’s the same thing over and over again. The suspended player has time to make a better decision on a hit, but fails to do so. Here, Gudbranson could have changed his angle, minimized contact with Vatrano or tie him up along the boards instead of plastering him into the glass.

    Gudbranson will see $18,817.20 of his salary go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Adam McQuaid’s broken leg is the latest injury to hit Bruins

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    Another day, another Boston Bruins player exiting the lineup due to injury.

    The team announced on Friday that defenseman Adam McQuaid will miss the next eight weeks recovering from a broken right fibula. The injury was suffered during Thursday night’s win over the Vancouver Canucks when he blocked two shots on the same shift in the final period.

    “Adam has been doing that for years around here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said afterward. “He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates.”

    The Bruins were happy to get Patrice Bergeron (four points) back in their lineup, but that was after Tuukka Rask was diagnosed with a concussion. Losing McQuaid to a broken leg and David Krejci to an upper-body injury was not ideal despite the two points. Cassidy said he expected Bergeron and Krejci to return to the lineup Saturday versus the Buffalo Sabres after sitting out Friday’s optional skate.

    Stick-tap Reddit user and Walking Dead fan RickvsNegan for the video

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.