Preseason Schedule Musings…

The NHL just recently released their preseason schedule, and you can see the entire list here. A couple things that are sticking points…

– I like the fact that instead of having regular season games in Europe they’re playing preseason games, and against European clubs, no less. The games mean less to them and their jetlag will be overcome by Opening Night. Following in David Stern‘s footsteps (surprise), Gary Bettman has decided to try and market the NHL game globally, even though a large number of current NHLers are not from North America, unlike the NBA, which averages about 1-2 Europeans per team. Some even have none. While I think playing preseason games elsewhere in the world is a great idea which will perhaps build popularity and overseas interest (much like basketball and baseball), I sincerely hope Bettman doesn’t even remotely consider establishing franchises in Europe as Paul Godfrey once idiotically suggested on OTR.

– This will perhaps be the first time we get a better sense of how good the other European clubs are, playing against NHL teams. Back when the all-star game featured NHL all-stars against the Russian national teams, it wasn’t pretty. The KHL (formerly RSL) has always contended that their teams were as good, if not better, than some teams in the NHL. We will know soon enough on October 1 when the Rangers face Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Bern. The Lightning will face the DEL’s Eisbaren Berlin, the reigning league champs, while the Sens will face off against the SEL’s Vastra Frolunda and the Pens against the FNL’s Jokerit Helsinki.

– A lot of games will be played in cities that do not feature a NHL team, but perhaps future potential franchise expansion or re-location destinations, including Halifax, Kansas City, Winnipeg, London, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas at the storied MGM Grand. There’s little doubt in anyone’s minds that the Halifax, Winnipeg, and London games will be jam-packed, but what of Salt Lake, Kansas and Vegas? You can bet that Bettman will be on hand to personally oversee the games, as it features three very real destinations for expansion or re-location. Should the games create a lot of buzz and sell-out well in advance (I don’t think it will), you can bet that Bettman will bring up expansion once more. It’s very interesting to note that no games will be played in Hamilton. A shot at Jim Balsillie? Maybe.

– The most idiotic game? The Kings against the Sharks in Utah on a Sunday. If Bettman has forgotten, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as Mormons), is the predominant religion of Utah, and its followers account for roughly 60% of the state’s population. The ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies averages a little under 4000 fans per game in a 10 100 seat capacity arena. Taking a quick peek at their upcoming schedule, the Grizzlies don’t have a single Sunday home game until March. I think they’ll have quite a hard time filling the stands.

This article has 3 Comments

  1. 76 players from countries other than the US currently sit on NBA rosters. There are another 51 players whose rights are owned by an NBA franchise following their draft. That’s 127 players. The NBA only had 451 players record stats last season, and almost 100 of those were probably bouncing between the NBDL and NBA rosters. If you assume that roughly 350 players are considered NBA regulars, that means 21% of the league is from a country other than the USA or Canada.

    In the NHL, roughly 66% of the player talent comes from the US and Canada, but 52% of that is Canadian. That means 34% is coming from overseas.

    Ironically, the NBA is starting to lose American born players to European leagues, in a fashion similar to what’s happening with the KHL and NHL in hockey. I think North American sports are going to receive a bit of a wake up call as Europe begins to take back it’s place as a dominant economic engine. The Euro is worth more than the Dollar, Russia is awash in Oil Revenue, and frankly there’s no reason for Europeans to want to play closer to home.

    Overall the balance of pro sports is taking on a more global nature, and I for one am fine with that. The NHL shouldn’t attempt to develop a European arm, but I would be happy to see a reduction in the number of NHL games and the addition of world club championships similar to what currently exists in Soccer.

  2. Good points, Steve, but I said that the NHL does boast more Europeans than the NBA. Perhaps my wording was a little confusing? There are a good number of Europeans in the NHL, but other than in a few select countries hockey as a whole isn’t too popular globally. It cannot be compared to baseball or basketball. Perhaps it’s the cost of attending or even playing hockey, but it remains very much on the sidelines globally.

    I’ve been following the Josh Childress incident, and I imagine it was quite alarming when LeBron James also stated that he would consider moving to Europe if they gave him more money. Gretzky also said the same thing when the KHL tried to lure Malkin back to Russia.

    I am no economist, but I believe the fluctuating exchange rate of the USD has a lot to do with European clubs being able to offer top dollar for players. It was only very recently (2006), that the Euro surpassed the USD as the dominant cash-flow currency. Once Obama is elected president, the exchange rate (supposedly) will stabilize and the value of the USD will go up, and I wonder if the European leagues become less enticing money-wise?

    I’m all for the reduction of the NHL schedule, but it would also means less potential revenue generated, and Bettman doesn’t want that.

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