It was recently announced that, as part of the NHL preseason, two games will be played outside of the NHL’s boundaries of the United States and Canada. This will be done so in… China! The Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks will be playing games in two of the largest cities in one of the biggest countries in the world. The two teams left for China on Sunday, September 17th, and will spend some time in the area before playing games. Earlier today, the Kings and Canucks played at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. On September 23rd, Vancouver and Los Angeles will take the battle to the Wukesong arena in Beijing to finish out the two-game series. Shanghai’s metro area is home to a whopping 34 million people, while Beijing’s is close behind with 24.9 million. The NHL’s current largest market doesn’t even come close, with New York’s metro area holding 20.2 million people. The games will be aired on NHL Network like all other preseason games.
What does this mean for the NHL? We don’t really know, quite yet. With players not being able to play in the Olympics this year, international fans were feeling even more discouraged. In addition to followers of the sport, the players were getting frustrated as well, such as proud Russian Alexander Ovechkin. This solves that problem in the same way that having a game at the Nassau Coliseum helped Islander fans. The New York Islanders played one preseason game at their beloved former home, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It was a great day for everyone involved, and ended with two goals, including the game-winner, from captain John Tavares, one of the people who loved the Coli the most. Now that the game is over and the team has to return to an uncertain future back in Brooklyn, fans are begging for the team to be brought back to Nassau.
This parallels the Olympics situation in relation to the 2017 NHL China Games. By giving China two preseason games, and by giving the Coliseum one, the NHL feels as if they are satisfying the needs of the fans by meeting in the middle. What they don’t see is the huge army of blue and orange screaming “bring them back” in the concourse of the lovably crowded building. What they don’t see is the fans from countries outside of the United States and Canada who would love to see more live NHL hockey. This year, there will be two games in China. Additionally, the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play in the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series at the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm Sweden on November 10th and 11th.
Is that enough? Probably not. Will fans still demand the Olympics back? Probably. But until then, it will be interesting to see how this China series plays out, and what doors it will open for the future.
What do you think of preseason games in locations like Sweden, China, and even Nassau Coliseum? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter: @PuckItUpBlog.