The NHL has made it an annual tradition to have a host of their teams start the season in Europe and next season will mark the fifth straight season the NHL Premiere Series will take place. Next season, they’ll be adding a new location as well as the NHL will play its first regular season game in Berlin, Germany as the NHL sends four teams across the Atlantic.
The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, and Buffalo Sabres will all kick off their seasons in three European cities next year as the NHL returns to Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden as well as Berlin for the start of the 2011-2012 season.
Instead of having the teams close to each other pair off and play a pair of games against each other, there’s going to be some East vs. West flavor to the games. On October 7, the Ducks and Sabres will face off at Hartwalll Areena in Helsinki while the Rangers and Kings go at it at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm.
With the Ducks in Finland, we can hope that perhaps Teemu Selanne decides to give it one more year and play in front of the fans in his home country. Henrik Lundqvist getting to play in his home country has to be a huge treat for him.
October 8 sees the Sabres and Kings face each other at the O2 Arena in Berlin, the first NHL game to be played there. Remember that for wacky trivia purposes. The Ducks and Rangers will play in Stockholm that night as well. Hey, Henrik Lundqvist plays two-night stands when he does his European tour.
It’s fun for many of the European players on these teams to get a chance to head back across the ocean for even a short series and some exhibition games to rally friends and family that can’t make it to North America to see them play. It also helps spur the talk that someday in the future the NHL will expand into Europe. We’re not buying that that will happen anytime soon, but it creates some fun discussion.
Personally, we’d love to see a Champions League format where the Stanley Cup winner faces off against the winners of the major professional leagues in Europe from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia the way it’s done in soccer. There’s probably a better chance of the NHL having a European division than there is of that happening though. Ahh pipe dreams.