NHL planning more games in Europe to expand footprint

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When the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets wrap up their NHL Global Series games on Friday, it will mark 31 regular season games played outside of North America in league history. That number will continue to grow when the 2019-20 season arrives.

Ahead of Thursday’s game in Helsinki, Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is in the early planning stages of next season’s Global Series games and if all goes well there will be preseason matchups in Germany and Switzerland and regular season games in Prague (October) and Stockholm (November).

This year, NHL held preseason and regular season Global Series games in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Finland. The NHL China Games, which saw two preseason games in Shenzhen and Beijing in September, will continue in six of the next eight seasons.

No teams or dates have been finalized for the 2019 Global Series games but you could make a long list of teams that would be good fits for the four countries the NHL will be traveling to next fall. The league is continuing to tap into overseas markets and even shifted the times of weekend games this season to accomodate European television broadcasts.

“[W]e’re grateful to have them,” Bettman said in regards to the league seeing more and more players coming from Europe. “We think it makes the game better, stronger and more widely viewed from an international perspective.”

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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.