Earlier this week the NHL announced a new regular season event called the Global Series, in which games will be staged in international locations. The first will take place next November in Stockholm between the Senators and Avalanche. The news got me thinking about the last time NHL played regular season games overseas.
NHL Premiere launched 10 years ago to open the 2007-08 season — the same year that ushered in the Reebok Edge Uniform System that's going away this summer. Set in London at The O2 Arena, it featured two games between the Ducks and Kings.
The following season 2008-09 saw an expansion of the concept as the NHL opened with four teams playing games in two European cities. The Senators and Penguins met in Stockholm while the Rangers and Lightning skated in Prague.
In 2009-10, the NHL followed the same format — four teams in two cities. Stockholm hosted for the second time as the Red Wings and Blues visited while the Blackhawks and Panthers met in Helsinki, Finland.
In 2010-11, the NHL Premiere was reaching its peak as the league sent a record six teams to three European cities, each of which had hosted the event before. The Bruins and Coyotes faced off in the Czech Republic, the Blue Jackets and Sharks landed in Sweden, and Finland welcomed the Hurricanes and Wild.
The 2010 event brought a few logo changes as the red banner was changed to silver and the searchlight element was removed from behind the NHL crest.
Then in 2011-12, the NHL changed up the formula a bit, sticking with three European cities but this time sending only four teams, the Rangers, Sabres, Ducks, and Kings. The Rangers played both of their games in Sweden while the other three teams traveled between Stockholm, Helsinki and Berlin.
With the CBA renewal looming, the next NHL Premiere was canceled in March 2012, foreshadowing the lockout that wiped out half of the 2012-13 season. The event never returned to the NHL calendar after that.
Now, five years later, it's coming back as the NHL Global Series. But rather than opening the season, it will take place about a month in as the Avalanche and Senators meet Nov. 10-11.
I'll wrap up by acknowledging that NHL Premiere was not the first time the league was showcased outside of North America. That honor belongs to Paris and London, where the Red Wings and Canadiens met in 1938. But those were exhibition games.
In fact, we're coming up on the 20th anniversary of the first regular season NHL games to take place overseas. The 1997-98 season opened in Tokyo. The Canucks and Mighty Ducks played two games as part of GAME ONe '97, an event designed to showcase the NHL product for Japanese audiences ahead of the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
Due to that event's success, the NHL returned to Japan the following season with the Flames and Sharks facing off for a pair of games. Tokyo then hosted the NHL for a third and final time in 2000 with two games between the Penguins and Predators.
All in all, the NHL played 20 games in Europe during the 5-year run of NHL Premiere. And six games were played in Japan during GAME ONe. The 2017 NHL Global Series will be the 27th and 28th regular season match-ups staged outside North America. Anyone planning to go?