Sports Outside the Beltway

NHL Players complain about European games

This season’s opener was played in London. On Saturday, the NHL announced its intention to play two games in Europe to open the 2008-09 season. From AP-

ATLANTA – Basking in the spotlight of its All-Star game, the NHL decided Saturday was the perfect time to unveil a big announcement for the start of next season: Four teams will get the honor of opening in Europe.

Maybe the league should have made sure the players were on board.

Saying there were still details to be worked out, the leader of the NHL Players’ Association objected to the league announcing two games would be played in both Prague and Stockholm to start the 2008-09 season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the New York Rangers are scheduled to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at Sazka Arena in the Czech Republic, while the Ottawa Senators would face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Globe Arena in Sweden’s capital city.

The games would be played Oct. 4 and 5 — assuming the Players’ Association signs off on the plans.

That might be a problem. Paul Kelly, the NHLPA’s executive director, said he was aware of the European games but warned the league not to make a firm announcement until the two sides worked out all details.

“If they want the Players’ Association to be a true business partner, then they have to include us in discussions about these matters at the earliest stages,” Kelly said. “We shouldn’t read about it in the press and we shouldn’t find about it after the fact.”

Kelly said he was approached by league officials Friday night and asked to sign off on the European games, which would mark the second straight year the NHL has opened its season on the other side of the Atlantic.

His response: “Look guys, you know we have a lot of details to work out. Travel, promotional issues, NHLPA involvement, accommodations, the schedule, etc. So there’s still lots of details to work out, but if you want to announce it generally, that’s fine.’

From Kelly’s statements, it appears the NHLPA is unhappy because they weren’t included in the decision making process. They should have been, but that’s water under the bridge now.

As to playing games in Europe, I don’t like it from the point of view of the Sports US fans. Both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay will be losing one home game. If you’re a season ticket holder of either team, you have a right to complain. Why should your team have to play a home gain 1/3rd the way around the world? I didn’t like it when the Miami Dolphins agreed to play The New York Giants in London last year. Dolphin fans had more reason to be upset, considering they only get 8 home games a year, and the Giants were making a rare appearance in South Florida.

US football in Europe if it wasn’t a financial bust, was hardly a success either. As to hockey, most countries have their own hockey leagues. How many Czechs and Swedes are playing in the NHL now? Quite a few. I think local fans prefer to watch their own teams. Not ones brought in from another continent. Even if interest is generated, I’d bet it is only temporary.

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As a Kings season ticket holder, the only thing that really happened was the loss of a home game from 41 down to 40; fortunately they were kind enough to only charge for 40, much to my surprise. There were a lot of complaints from Ducks fans that the Kings should lose 2 home games and they shouldnâ??t lose any since AEG was the company that built the arena and they were Stanley Cup Champs and their first home game with the Cup should be in Anaheim. I guess they didnâ??t realize their team agreed to the terms of the trip.

As far as players, aside from the odd Brazilian playing hockey somewhere around 30% of the players are from Europe including former Soviet provinces. I went to both games in London as well as the games the Kings played in Salzburg and found that while most countries have their own league, people came from all over Europe to see their countrymen playing for an NHL team. The most fun I had on the trip was talking to the fans that showed up, telling stories about how two rival villages pooled their resources to rent a bus to drive to Salzburg to see Anze Kopitar play. Well maybe the most fun was sticking to those Swedes who insisted that their league was superior to the NHL and could beat any NHL teamâ?¦.only to lose to the worst team in the NHL.

Posted by Mister Biggs | January 28, 2008 | 11:06 am | Permalink

Hello I live in Ottawa and should the Senators play in Sweeden next october how could I get tickets?

Posted by justin | January 29, 2008 | 01:17 pm | Permalink

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