NHL Returns to Europe with a New Twist
April 11, 2011 Leave a comment
New York/Toronto (April 11, 2011) – For 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™, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL®) announced today. The New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks will play a total of four games in three different European capital cities – Berlin, Stockholm and Helsinki – Oct. 7-8, 2011.
On Friday, Oct. 7, the Ducks will play the Sabres at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland, and the Rangers will play the 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. These games reward the legion of loyal and passionate international NHL fans by featuring some of the game’s biggest stars and generate interest in the League worldwide.
“The Compuware NHL Premiere Games underscore the strength of our game, the popularity of our players and the international appeal of our brand,” said Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner. “With a new format that varies each team’s opponents; with the participation of the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, and with the debut of Berlin’s O2 World Arena as a regular-season NHL venue, these games will play a significant role in launching our 2011-12 campaign.”
“We want to grow the NHL game around the world, and the Compuware NHL Premiere games are an important part of that effort,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “We are excited to continue to bring NHL hockey to European fans in their home markets where they can watch players from their home countries play with and against the best in the world. These will be memorable games.”
The NHL is a truly global League with approximately 25% of NHL players this season having been born outside of North America. Rangers All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be playing in his home country of Sweden for the first time as an NHL player. Oslo, Norway, native Mats Zuccarello, who earned Swedish Elite League MVP honors in 2010 when he starred for Modo, has 23 points in 42 games for the Rangers this season. The Ducks’ current roster has four Finnish players – Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Jarkko Ruutu and Toni Lydman and one Swede in Andres Lilja. Sabres center Jochen Hecht hails from Mannheim, Germany, and left wing Thomas Vanek is from Austria.
Other notable international players currently playing for the featured NHL teams include Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Michal Handzus (Slovakia) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (Ukraine) of the Kings; Jonas Hiller (Switzerland), Luca Sbisa (Italy) and Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovakia) of the Ducks; Marian Gaborik (Slovakia), Artem Anisimov (Russia), Wojtek Wolski (Poland) and Vinny Prospal (Czech Republic) of the Rangers; and Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) of the Sabres.
Additionally, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the Ducks will play a special exhibition game at Hartwall Areena against Finnish hockey club Jokerit of the SM-Liiga, the former team of NHL star Teemu Selanne. That same day, the Kings will play a special exhibition game in Hamburg, Germany at the O2 World Hamburg.
When the Sabres and Kings play in Berlin, it will mark the first-ever NHL regular-season game played in Germany, but it is not the first time an NHL team has taken to German ice. After the 1958-59 season the Rangers and the Boston Bruins toured Europe including games in Berlin, Dortmund, Essen and Krefeld. In 1990, the St. Louis Blues and Stanley Cup® champion Edmonton Oilers participated in the Epson Cup against West German League champion EG Dusseldorf. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored a 4-1 victory in a exhibition game against the hometown Eisbären Berlin at O2 World Arena in the 2008 NHL Premiere Challenge. In 2010, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Adler Mannheim Eagles 3-2 in a shootout in front of 13,600 fans at SAP Arena in Mannheim.
Along with their visit in 1959, the Rangers have made two other trips to Europe. In September, 1993, the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs played a two-game preseason series in London. In 2008, the Rangers were one of four NHL teams to open the 2008-09 season in Europe. Before facing the Lightning in two NHL games in Prague, Czech Republic, the Rangers won the inaugural Victoria Cup in Bern, Switzerland. One night after defeating host SC Bern, 8-1, in an exhibition, the Rangers completed a comeback against European champion Metalurg Magnitogorsk on Ryan Callahan’s late third-period goal, winning 4-3.
The Ducks and Kings return to Europe for the first time since opening the 2007-08 NHL regular season in front of two sellout crowds at the O2 Arena in London. Each team recorded a 4-1 victory in the series. In 1997, the Ducks also participated in the first-ever NHL regular-season games played outside of North America with two games against the Vancouver Canucks in Tokyo, Japan. The games, at the Yoyogi Arena, drew sellout crowds of 10,500.
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 versus Austrian teams as well as exhibitions against each other.
Last year, six NHL teams – the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks – opened the 2010-11 NHL regular season by playing six games in Europe. The Hurricanes and Wild played two regular-season games against each other in Helsinki; the Blue Jackets and Sharks squared off for two games in Stockholm; and the Bruins and Coyotes met twice in Prague.
The Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers opened the 2009-2010 NHL regular season in Europe when the Blackhawks and Panthers played home-and-home games in Helsinki and the Red Wings and Blues had a home-and-home series in Stockholm. The NHL opened the 2008-09 regular season in Europe in front of capacity crowds when the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning played two games in Prague and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators squared off in a two-game set in Stockholm.