COLUMBUS, OHIO – The Columbus Blue Jackets will open their 10th National Hockey League season with a pair of games vs. the San Jose Sharks at Ericcson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday, October 8 and Saturday, October 9, the club, NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association announced February 9.
The Blue Jackets and Sharks, will join the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes in opening their seasons in Europe as part of 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere™ and NHL Face-Off™, marking the fourth-straight year the NHL will begin the regular season with games played overseas. The Hurricanes and Wild will meet at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland on October 7 and 8, while the Bruins and Coyotes will play at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on October 9 and 10.
"The Columbus Blue Jackets are proud and excited to be one of the six franchises selected to participate in the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Games in October," said Blue Jackets President Mike Priest. "The focus of the hockey world will be on these games, providing great exposure for the franchise and hopefully to the city of Columbus as we mark our 10th season in the National Hockey League. Our fans can be proud that their team was selected to participate. We are very much looking forward to the trip to Sweden and know the experience will be memorable and rewarding for everyone involved."
The Blue Jackets current roster features four players who hail from Sweden – forwards Fredrik Modin (Sundsvall), Samuel Pahlsson (Ange) and Kristian Huselius (Osterhaninge) and defenseman Anton Stralman (Tibro). Modin and Pahlsson will represent defending Olympic gold medal-winning Sweden at the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
"Having the chance to play these games in going to be special, especially for me and the other Swedish players," said Pahlsson. "It is really going to be great for fans in Sweden to be able to watch the NHL in person. They love hockey and games there are always pretty festive with a lot of singing and cheers. It is kind of like soccer a little bit. I'm looking forward to it and it should be a lot of fun."
Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic routinely rank among the top consumers of NHL content outside of North America. Through the first three months of this season, Finland ranked second behind Slovakia among non-North American countries in terms of percentage of the Internet population who access NHL.com while Sweden ranked third and the Czech Republic fourth. Finland (42%), Slovakia (40%), Sweden (34%) and Czech Republic (31%) also rank among the highest percentage of visitors who consume video on NHL.com.
"The Premiere Games are a highly anticipated part of our season launch, and we are extremely pleased that six teams -- more than ever -- will open their season in Europe,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "With these games, nearly half of our Clubs will have participated in Premiere -- a testament to how excited our teams are to be playing before our outstanding fans in Europe."
"The 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Games, featuring six participating clubs this year, represents our continued commitment to growing hockey outside of North America, further displaying the talent of the NHL players internationally, said Mike Ouellet, NHLPA Chief of Business Affairs. "Fans in Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to watch some of their own home-grown players competing in these regular season NHL games, which will certainly be a great experience for everyone involved."
The Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers opened the 2009-2010 NHL regular season in Europe when the Blackhawks and Panthers played home-and-home games in Helsinki and the Red Wings and Blues squared off in a home-and-home series in Stockholm. In Helsinki, sales on Friday and Saturday broke the Hartwall Arena-record for highest merchandise sales ever for a hockey game at that venue. The previous record was held by the 2003 World Ice Hockey Championships. Overall merchandise sales for the four regular season games in Europe in 2009 increased 52% from the comparable numbers in 2008. Per capita spending rose 73%.
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 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. A complete overseas history of the NHL is available on NHL.com.
More information on 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere will be released at a later date, including ticket information, broadcast information, training camp schedules and preseason schedules.
The Blue Jackets return to action on Wednesday when they host the San Jose Sharks. Game time from Nationwide Arena is 7 p.m. ET. Live coverage on FOX Sports Ohio HD begins with the Blue Jackets Live pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. The game will also broadcast live on the Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Blue Jackets Radio Network and flagship stations WBNS-AM, Sports Radio 1460 The Fan and WWCD-FM, CD101, and online at BlueJackets.com.
Blue Jackets single game tickets are on sale now at the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office, The FOX Sports Ohio Blue Line Team Store at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing, ticket outlets at the Chiller Ice Rinks and all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers. Fans can also purchase tickets by phone at (800) 745-3000 or online at BlueJackets.com and ticketmaster.com. Six-, 10- and 20-game packages for the 2009-10 season are also on sale. For information, call (800) NHL-COLS or visit BlueJackets.com.