Wednesday, 14 March 2012

No European Vacation

With the CBA talks looming on the horizon, the NHL has decided that six to eight lucky teams will not suit up for exhibition and the first regular season games in Europe next year, meaning the seat sale to the left is absolutely useless to NHL teams. While no formal talks have begun, the decision to call off these games for the first time since 2007 shows that the NHL is serious about the expiry date of September 15, and that they seemingly are interested in having the 2012-13 season operate without any sort of work stoppage.

There was some discussion to open the season across the pond once again, but an agreement couldn't be reached between the NHL and NHLPA over how cancellation costs would be handled in the event of a work stoppage, according to reports. Without some sort of agreement in the event that one side walks away from the bargaining table, the NHL felt it was prudent to cancel the games as a precaution.

The NHL has done a great job in having teams with a large or popular European contingent to return home and play in front of the fans of those countries. Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks played in Selanne's home of Helsinki, Finland against Buffalo to open this season while Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers squared off against the Kings in Stockholm, Sweden against the Los Angeles Kings. Both games were extremely successful, and there was hope that they could open the season in new locales in Europe as well.

Personally, it doesn't matter if they open the season in Europe, North America, India, or on the moon. I actually enjoyed the afternoon games from Europe, and it was neat to see how fans over there reacted to the NHL. Clearly, the fans in both Helsinki and Stockholm were more boisterous than in Berlin, but there was an electricity in each of the arenas with the NHL playing, meaning that the NHL's brand is certainly reaching a global market.

While the travel is taxing on the teams making the trip, especially for the west coast teams, there's a sense that the players are also fans of these trips. For some, it's an opportunity to visit places they may never see until their careers are over if at all. For others, it's a chance to return home to Europe where they bring their extended families to the rink to watch them play in the best hockey league on the planet. In short, this is probably as good for the players as it is for the NHL.

The fact that the NHL has decided to cancel the games is nothing more than a precaution, and I wouldn't doubt that we'll see these games pick up once the ink has dried on the new CBA. While this decision won't win any new fans over in Europe this season, it's nothing more than a blip on the radar in what hopefully will be good relations for the foreseeable future for the NHL and NHLPA.

And if things break down, you know some players will make the jump across the pond to play, so European fans may get a chance to see NHL stars one way or another. Here's hoping, though, that there are no work stoppages this time around.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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