Shit yes. The NHL is opening the 2008-2009 season in Stockholm, Sweden. October 4th and 5th. I live in Stockholm, Sweden. I enjoy the NHL. It’s like they knew. I’m pumped. This came out a few days ago. But the season will open with Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh.
A few years ago when I was doing my study abroad at Uppsala a few of us got together and went to a Toronto Maple Leafs practice that was held before the season here in Stockholm. At Globen. Mats Sundin is a Maple Leaf. He is also a Swede. That’s all it took apparently to bring out a pretty solid crowd. For a practice. I can’t even imagine what a game would be like.
It was quite the international group at Globen. Actually, our group was mostly just some Americans and Canadians. But come on. Our resident Canadian was informing us about all the players who came from his area of Canada. It was a glorious afternoon. And Canadian flags were waving as the ex-pats welcomed their canuck brethren. That's canuck with a lowercase C in this case so as not to be confused with the Vancouver Canucks. Who, as a general rule, suck. I love that about international sporting events though. Even something as benign as a practice brings out the patriotism and the flags.
Let me explain what it means to have Senators and the Penguins open the season. First, and probably most important to the Swedes, it means Daniel Alfredsson. Who is Swedish. And who is having an absolutely spectacular season. Leading the league in points. He also managed to rack up seven points in a game just the other day. That’s not bad. Considering hockey tends to be a relatively low scoring affair. It also means though that Sidney Crosby is coming to Stockholm. He of the baby face. He of the C on his jersey. He of the incredible puck handling skills. He of 20 years of age. He that is just a bit older than my youngest brother. What have you done lately NBDC? Not made millions of dollars and broken records, I’ll tell you that much. Man up huh?
Sidney Crosby scored over 100 points in his rookie campaign. He followed that with 120. He is the future of the NHL. NHL sports marketing executives have wet dreams about his potential. It’s a little frightening. But true. And what better way to spread the gospel that is the NHL but by sending a good looking, charismatic, all-star to Sweden, an already hockey crazed country? There is no better way. Say what you will about the NHL in the US losing fans, the lockout killing them, no one watching on TV. You are wrong. They are studs at making money. And building buzz.
They play outside. They have deals with YouTube. They play overseas. They upgrade the All-Star game. The NHL might not draw the crowds and TV-viewers like the NFL does. But hockey in America is anything but dead.
And, as strange as it may seem, taking hockey games overseas, actually helps the league in the US. It creates buzz. It makes people think. It brings hockey into the conversation. And that’s just good publicity. Plus it allows me to see some good old American professional sports. Hopefully. I need tickets.