New York/Prague (March 10, 2008) – The dream of bringing NHL hockey to Prague, Czech Republic, became a reality today as Prague Mayor Pavel Bem hosted representatives from the New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the National Hockey League at the city’s Old Town City Hall. The group officially announced that as part of “NHL Premiere 2008” the Rangers and Lightning will open the 2008-09 NHL regular season with two games against each other Oct. 4th and 5th at the newly-named O2 Arena in Prague. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will also open the 2008-09 regular season Oct. 4th and 5th in Europe, with two games in Stockholm, Sweden.
Joining Mayor Bem at today’s ceremony were Glen Sather, president and general manager of the New York Rangers; Ron Campbell, president of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Miroslav Cernosek, owner of NHL Premiere 2008 promoter Ceska Sportovni; and Ken Yaffe, NHL senior vice president/International.
“Thanks to all of the men here, I am pleased to announce that our ice-hockey dreams will come true,” said Mayor Bem. “The Czech Republic is very important hockey country and Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the World. We are looking forward to high-quality hockey games.”
Mr. Campbell added, “When we learned about this idea for the first time, we were excited. It is something unusual for the club, but it is definitely in the best interest of hockey and the entire NHL.”
The Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings successfully opened the 2007-08 NHL regular season in front of two sellout crowds at O2 Arena in London prompting Mr. Yaffe to say, “Opening the NHL regular season with games in Europe was an experiment we started in London last year and the success we experienced showed us that Ceska Sportovni’s hopes of having games in Prague were something that could be fulfilled. With the number of Czech players in our league, we recognized a very high potential for success in the Czech Republic.”
“Prague and the whole Czech Republic are excited having an opportunity to host one of the most significant sporting events in a history. We can promise to do our best to make this event unforgettable,” added Mr. Cernosek.
Mr. Sather was asked about Kladno, Czech Republic-native and potential free agent Jaromir Jagr playing with the team in his home country next season. Sather responded, “At the end of the season we will have enough opportunities to negotiate the contract with Jaromir. The contract could be automatically extended if one of the stipulations is fulfilled. We hope we will come to an agreement.”
Unable to attend due to a trip to Israel, Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek wanted to be sure to comment on the major sporting event coming to his country. Via video message, the Prime Minister said, “The NHL, with many Czech players, is the most prestigious ice-hockey league in the World. I am very happy we will have such an event in Prague. I will personally cheer for New York Rangers during the first match and for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second.”