Tag: NHL Premiere Series

NHL Premiere Series - Stockholm

Report: Next season won’t kick off in Europe


While the practice has received its fair share of mixed reviews, the NHL’s tradition of kicking off its regular season by playing several games in Europe provides fans and players with a unique experience. Chris Johnston reports that the unsettled CBA situation prompted the NHL to nix the “Premiere Games” for 2012, though.

To date, there have been no formal bargaining talks between the league and NHL Players’ Association.

However, the sides have discussed the status of the premiere games for next season.

The league was willing to schedule them, but an agreement couldn’t be reach with the NHLPA over how cancellation costs would be handled in the event of a work stoppage, according to two sources.

It’s logical for the NHL to play it safe and avoid confusion regarding games that simply might not happen if the CBA talks stall. Still, it certainly calls Gary Bettman’s “business as usual” comments into question since – most literally – this is a break from the way the league has been doing business the last few years.

It’s not time to lay flowers on the 2012-13 season’s grave just yet, but it does speak to the concern that the NHLPA and NHL have some work to do.

Players can look on the bright side, though: if the season goes off without a hitch, they’ll save a little wear and tear from travel.

Next season may not start in Europe

NHL Premiere Series - Helsinki

The NHL has made it an annual event to start the season in Europe the past five years as part of the NHL Premiere Series, but next season may see things change.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that the Premiere Series may be put on hold next season thanks to, you guessed it, the oncoming labor battle this summer.

The uncertainty over whether the 2012-13 season will begin on time given the Sept. 15 expiration date of the CBA has at least for the time being prevented scheduling of the games, with the parties as yet unable to agree on the parameters regarding revenue allocations and risk should the matches be canceled.

Unfortunately this is all part of the business and if the labor negotiations get in the way sacrifices have to be made. The NHL likes doing the games in Europe, but if things aren’t figured out in time something has to go. At least if the Premiere Series winds up on hold though, some teams will be without an excuse for why their season started out slowly.

Sabres look to stop being terrible at home

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are off to a good start thanks to playing great on the road going 5-1-0 (two games in Europe) but at home, they’ve been anything but good. The Sabres are 1-3-0 on home ice in the First Niagara Center and as they’ve got four of their next five on home ice including tonight’s tilt with Philly, now would be a good time to get things right on home ice.

As Bill Hoppe of the Niagara Gazette points out, the Sabres started last season out awful at home as well before flipping the switch and becoming a beastly home team. As Hoppe hears from coach Lindy Ruff, getting too cute and fancy for the home fans might be part of the problem.

“We’re making plays that we didn’t make in the first three or four games, we’re trying plays,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think that comes with success that you think, ‘Ahh, we’re pretty good, maybe we can be a little bit better, maybe we can try a little bit of this, a little bit of that.’ And a little bit of that turns into something in your own goal.”

The Sabres have plenty of talent as it is, trying to do too much in a defensively intense league like the NHL will get you killed. Doing it against a team like the Flyers tonight will get you run out of the building. We’re guessing that Ruff will be taking everyone to journalism school to teach them a lesson if they don’t figure things out. The old K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method will get a work out.

Letting down the rabid fans in Buffalo will only take you so far, just ask every Bills quarterback since Jim Kelly.

Players understand NHL Premiere games in Europe are business… and pleasure

NHL Premiere Series - Stockholm

The NHL Premiere in Europe is a nice novelty to start the season for fans and players alike. But now that the idea of starting seasons in Europe has been around for a few years, there are players who have already experienced the novelty and are going back for second and third trips as part of the NHL’s European showcase. It’s great to see new cities and experience different cultures—but at the end of the day, there are important points on the line for teams that will desperately need wins later in the season.

Members of both the Kings and the Ducks have experienced what it’s like to start the season in Europe. Both teams kicked off the season yesterday—both play their second game of back-to-back situations this afternoon. Even though the two teams had very different results yesterday, they both learned lessons from their trip to London to start the 2007-08 season.

Kings’ captain Dustin Brown traveled with the team in September of 2007 and says that the team learned what not to do this time around. Judging by their 3-2 overtime victory over the Rangers to start the season, they must be doing something right.

“We went over there really early and we were over there for a long time which I don’t know necessarily helped,” Brown said. “And then having days off [the ice] helped. We’re on the ice a lot as it is, you travel a lot getting over there and maybe having a day, We have one scheduled, I think is a good idea. Because after all that travel, you might get more out of a day off than you would getting on the ice for an hour. It kind of refreshes the mind and the body.”

But it’s not all negative lessons for the guys who have been over there. Ducks star Teemu Selanne played in the games in London as well and saw team chemistry built with the long trip to start the season. Despite the Ducks’ 4-1 loss to start the season, he thinks the team can make the most of the trip this time as well.

From Selanne: “I really believe that’s going to be really good for our team to start the season right away, with hanging around together for four or five days before the first game and get the team feeling again. I think that’s going to be very important process for us.”

For teams like the Kings and the Ducks, the hardest part of the entire trip is the time change. From Anaheim to Helsinki, it’s a nine hour time difference. There are eight time zones that separate Los Angeles from Stockholm. NHL players are very set in their routines and they’re playing games when their bodies still think its 10:00am. Brown explained that no matter how many times you do it, it’s still difficult to get the body to adjust.

“It’s an eight/nine hour time change.” Brown shared. “And that’s the hard part right, the battle, right there. The travel is hard, but when you’re in a three time zone range, you can get by. This is [different]. I’ve done it one time before in the NHL—I’ve done it numerous times with the World Juniors and World Championships—but it’s a matter of just trying to get on a schedule as soon as you can. You’re only over there for five or six days so it’s tough.”

Kings defenseman Matt Greene shared Brown’s thoughts about the travel:

“The time change messes you up a little bit, but they did a good job of scheduling though.” Greene said. “It’s pretty spaced out. It’s going to be road games. That’s it. That’s how we have to approach it. Just go with that and get some wins… I don’t think we’ll have too much off time.”

That can be easier said than done. Of course it’s important to think of the games in Europe as everyday road games, but the fact remains that these players are in different countries—for some, it’s the first time experiencing Europe and its different cultures.

Rob Scuderi understands the perfect mix of business and pleasure. The stay-at-home defenseman traveled to Stockholm as a member of the Penguins—a team that ended up winning the Cup.

“We’re over there to play hockey and win some hockey games,” Scuderi said. “But at the same time, you can’t turn a blind eye to try to enjoy it at the same time.”

The games are important—four points in the standings can mean the difference between home-ice advantage and missing the playoffs completely in the Western Conference. Scuderi’s fellow Kings defenseman Greene agrees.

“You just get yourself ready,” Greene told Pro Hockey Talk. “You’re going to be on the road for two weeks. We’ve done that a few times with the travel and everything. We just gotta be ready. We’ll be gone for a while, but we’re only playing a few games. We’re only playing four regular season games. We just gotta make sure we get up for all of those and be ready because those are big points. In the West, it’s always tight. We have to make sure we get these points right away.”

Understanding the different routine changes each player is dealing with is something to watch for as you watch the NHL Premiere games unfold from Europe. The lessons that the Kings and Ducks learned in London should give them an advantage—or at least negate the daunting time zone disadvantage.

Regardless, these are experiences that the players will keep with them for the rest of their lives. And from a professional standpoint, the team bonding – and the points – are things the teams will keep with them throughout the season.

Personal challenges for Teemu Selanne starting season in Finland

Phoenix Coyotes v Anaheim Ducks

Starting the season in Europe is certainly a tough way to start the season. Between adjusting to ridiculous time changes, language barriers, and jet lag, it’s a difficult way to kick start a new year. The good thing is that each team and just about every player faces the same set of challenges overseas as they try to prepare themselves for the 82 game grind.

Then there’s someone like Teemu Selanne. For Selanne, starting his (probable) final season in Finland would be like Wayne Gretzky returning and starting the season in Toronto—only if Gretzky hadn’t played a season there in twenty years. From the moment the NHL Premiere was announced and the Ducks found out they were headed to Helsinki, Selanne knew the 2011-12 season was going to be unlike anything else he’s ever experienced.

Before the Ducks left for Europe, Selanne was asked about starting the season in Finland for the first time in his career.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” Selanne said. “Obviously, it was 2003 [World Championships] the last time we played there. It’s going to be fun. Obviously, they sold out the game so quickly and people are telling me that’s what they’re really talking about there. They’re pretty spoiled. This is the third or fourth time when an NHL team has started the season there; so they’ve seen a lot of NHL games there. But I think this is going to be a little more special.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” Selanne continued. “Obviously, it’s a very special place for me. That’s my hometown and we’re going to play against my home team, so it’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be like a zoo too. It’s going to be a lot of people, [people] trying to take a piece of that week. But I think it’s going to be a great experience, I’m very excited.”

Selanne also acknowledged that there would be challenges for the team starting in Europe. Yet he saw the silver lining of the team traveling together as a bonding experience to start the season.

“Obviously, the trip is going to be a little tough,” Selanne said. “We’re going there, 10 hours time difference, and coming back. But I really believe that’s going to be really good for our team to start the season right away—with hanging around together for four or five days before the first game and get the team feeling again. I think that’s going to be very important process for us. I’m looking forward to going there. I know it’s going to be a great experience for my teammates.”

For Selanne personally, it’s going to be tougher for him than his teammates. He’s revered in Finland and dealing with an entire new set of circumstances.

“People need tickets and people ask if I can come there,” Selanne said. “Obviously, I have to be tough with that. There’s no time to do too much. We are there to win the games and start focusing on the season… Obviously we need to stay focused there.

“It’s going to be tough. I already heard that my PR guy back home has 150 interviews ready. I said, you know what, forget it… They come here and they always expect you to have time. It’s just funny—it works though.”

The trip got off to a good start as the Ducks won their final preseason game against Jokerit in overtime. Now, the real heavy lifting gets started when the regular season kicks off against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in Helsinki. Selanne and the Ducks will try to navigate all of the external distractions and put their best game on the ice—because at the end of the crazy circus, there are two important regular season games to be played.