By Sam Scanlon ’19
The National Hockey League is in the midst of a long-term campaign in the hopes to broaden the game of hockey and the NHL globally. Their plan to expand includes playing in a series of games overseas in order to attract the attention of more fans and players to help the game grow. European countries with an already strong hockey and NHL presence will be visited, as well as China.
China, a country with virtually no hockey community, is where the NHL will spend most of its time and energy on growth. Its efforts started with the 2018 NHL O.R.G. China Games, a series between the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames earlier this month. Game 1 was held at the Universiade Sports Center in Shenzhen, before they went up north to Cadillac Arena for Game 2 in Beijing. The Bruins took both games by scores of 4-3 and 3-1.
The trip was a great experience for fans in China to be introduced to the game of hockey by watching some of the best players in the world compete in their country. Watching NHL players is not as easily accessible for Chinese fans as it is for North American fans, so this was a great opportunity for fans to experience the highest level of hockey firsthand. However, the NHL is taking this expansion a step further, and it signed a five-year contract with their broadcast partner, CCTV, to broadcast NHL games and content. Now fans in China will have a lot more exposure to high end games.
The NHL is not only trying to expand their league, but also expand the game of hockey while in China. They plan on helping to develop youth teams to build the community across the country, as well as assisting in the development in the Chinese National team in hopes they will be able to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Additionally, the Boston Bruins made an effort of their own to promote Chinese players as they offered a Professional Tryout Contract (PTO)to Derek Dun, a Chinese Canadian goaltender who was playing with the Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League. Dun told the Bruins’ website that it was “a surreal moment to step out on the ice and practice with some of the best players of the world.”
Aside from China, the NHL will participate in a series of games across Europe. The Global Series games include the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils’ season opener in Gothenburg, Sweden on Oct. 6. Nov. 1-2 will bring another series of games featuring the Florida Panthers and the Winnipeg Jets in Helsinki, Finland.
Prior to their season opener in Sweden, the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils will each play a game against European professional teams. The New Jersey Devils will face off against SC Bern of the Swiss National League at their home arena in Bern, Switzerland on October 1, 2017. First overall draft pick, Nico Hischier, will make his return home to Switzerland to represent the NHL in his home country.
On Oct. 3, the Oilers will take on Kölner Haie, a team in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. Like Hischier, the Oilers 2014 3rd overall draft pick, Leon Draisaitl, will be making a return home to Germany. Interestingly enough, Kölner Haie, the Oilers’ opponent, is coached by his father, Peter Draisaitl.
The NHL is continuously making an effort to expand the league as well as the game of hockey around the globe. Their relationship with countries overseas is imperative to the league as they hope to generate a larger fan base, but also as they attempt to attract the best players in these countries to sign with NHL organizations to improve the quality of the league.