Tag: 2011 Premiere Games


New York Rangers will play exhibition game in Prague, Czech Republic on September 29

Earlier this week, we received word that the Buffalo Sabres will play an exhibition game in Mannheim, Germany on October 4. That won’t be the only news regarding the 2011 Premiere Challenge’s exhibition schedule, as the league announced that the New York Rangers will face HC Sparta Prague on Thursday, September 29. The contest will take place at TESLA Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.

Vinny Prospal is the only Czech Republic native on the Rangers roster and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, so it’s unclear if the Rangers will be able to win over the crowd with returning home heroes. (The Sabres won’t have that problem since they employ Mannheim, Germany native Jochen Hecht.)

This won’t be the Rangers’ only game in Europe, as they’re also set to begin the regular season overseas. They’ll play the first two games of their 2011-12 season at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, with an October 7 game against the Los Angeles Kings and an October 8 contest versus the Anaheim Ducks. Something tells me that Henrik Lundqvist will have a few people cheering for him in those games, by the way.

Buffalo Sabres will play an exhibition game in Mannheim, Germany on October 4


It’s unclear if the Buffalo Sabres will play another game in the month of April after tonight, but we already know what they’ll be doing on October 4. The NHL announced that the team will play an exhibition game Mannheim, Germany’s SAP Arena against Adler Mannheim. This game will be part of the 2011 Premiere Challenge, the league’s annual set of overseas games used to kick off each season.

This won’t be the first game Adler Mannheim will play against an NHL team, either. The team lost to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout last year.

The team selections for these types of events often include some kind of hometown connection and this situation is no different. Sabres forward Jochen Hecht is from Mannheim and actually played five seasons for Adler Mannheim, including the 2004-05 lockout season. Hecht also represented Germany during three Olympic runs: 1998, 2002 and 2010.

Hecht described this experience as a dream come true.

“I am very excited to return to my hometown and play against my former club,” said Hecht. “The National Hockey League is the highest level of the game in the world. Not only is it a great opportunity to have the NHL brought to Mannheim, but to be a part of the experience is a dream come true.”

Here’s a little more information about the league’s five consecutive years of playing regular season games in Europe, via the league’s press release.

Next season marks a record fifth consecutive season the NHL will be playing regular-season games in Europe as part of 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere™ and NHL Face-Off™.  NHL teams will play a total of four games in three different European capital cities – Berlin, Stockholm and Helsinki.  On Friday, Oct. 7, the Sabres will play the Anaheim Ducks at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland, and the New York Rangers will play the Los Angeles Kings at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.  The next day, Saturday, Oct. 8, the Sabres and Kings will play each other at the O2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany, and the Rangers face off against the Ducks in Stockholm.

By the end of 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere, 17 NHL teams – over half of the NHL – will have played regular-season and exhibition games in Europe since 2007. The Sabres have visited Europe one other time in franchise history. To open the 1998 pre-season, the Sabres and Lightning traveled to Austria to participate in the NHL International Challenge, playing a series of exhibition games against Austrian teams as well as exhibitions against each other.

Premiere Games might be expanded to six teams in six cities; Could Ovechkin and Caps play in Moscow?

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While the NHL’s overseas experiments have been a bit hit or miss since the first Premiere Games in 2007 in London, the league hopes to widen its European impact by making the events bigger and bigger. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the league handed out invitations to the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals to participate in the season-opening contests.

LeBrun writes that the NHL’s tentative plan is to have those six teams play in six cities. The most enticing possibility he brought up is that Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals* might play in front of a crowd in Moscow.

* – Not to mention other popular Russians Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov … if they’re still with the team, that is.

The six squads haven’t officially agreed to participate just yet, but LeBrun mentions that the Rangers are another team that would make an especially large amount of sense. The reasoning is simple: Madison Square Garden is undergoing renovations reaching into mid-October, so it is logical that the Rangers might play in Europe during a chunk of that time.

The Premiere Games have their critics, but seem like an honest effort to grow the game. We’ll let you know once they go from the planning stages to something more tangible over the next few months.