New York/Toronto/Stockholm/Helsinki (February 19, 2008) – The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), in cooperation with Live Nation Sweden, IMG Sweden and Hartwall Areena/Jokerit in Finland, announced today that the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will open the 2009-2010 NHL regular season in Europe.
The Blackhawks and Panthers will play homeand- home games Friday, Oct. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 3, in Helsinki, Finland, at Hartwall Arena. On those same dates, the Red Wings and Blues will play a home-and-home series at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Finland and Sweden are the top ranked countries in terms of overseas visitors to NHL.com.
The roster of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings currently is comprised of numerous Swedish players – including captain Nicklas Lidstrom, 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom and Niklas Kronwall. The Blues boast a dynamic Swedish player of their own in center Patrik Berglund, a first-round draft pick of the team in 2006 and participant in the 2009 NHL YoungStars Game on the rookie team.
The Chicago Blackhawks will be playing in Europe for the first time in 17 years. The franchise played a two-game exhibition series against the Montreal Canadiens at London’s Wembley Arena in September, 1992. NHL Premiere 2009 will be the first games ever played outside of North America by the Florida Panthers organization and the first regularseason NHL games played in Finland.
"The NHL Premiere games are a signature event for the League, our players and our fans," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "Playing regular-season games overseas is an excellent way to further engage the passionate NHL fan base in Europe and encourage the growth of the game of hockey."
"The 2009 Premiere games continue an important tradition of showcasing NHL players to an international audience," said Paul Kelly, NHLPA Executive Director. "Our members look forward to displaying their skills in front of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic hockey fans in Finland and Sweden."
The NHL opened the 2008-09 regular season in Europe in front of capacity crowds when the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning played two games in Prague, Czech Republic, and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators squared off in a two-game set in Stockholm. The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings opened the 2007-08 NHL regular season in front of two sellout crowds at O2 Arena in London. Previously, the NHL hosted three successful Game One events in Japan in 1997, 1998 and 2000. A complete overseas history of the NHL is available on media.nhl.com.
More information on NHL Premiere 2009 will be released at a later date, including ticket information, broadcast information, training camp schedules and preseason schedules.