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.