NEW YORK (Feb. 11, 2003) -- The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) have officially announced today that the Toronto Maple Leafs will travel to Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland this September to participate in the NHL Challenge 2003.
The week-long NHL Challenge, which will consist of NHL Challenge-Stockholm and NHL Challenge-Helsinki, will take place from Friday, Sept.12 to Friday, Sept. 19. The event will feature a four-day Maple Leafs training camp and three preseason games against some of the top-European professional hockey teams. The NHL Challenge-Stockholm will mark a special homecoming for Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin as he returns for the first time in an NHL uniform to play in his native country --as well as face his former team Djurgarden Hockey Club.
| Prime Minister Persson of Sweden addressed the Air Canada Centre crowd before the Leafs vs. Oilers game Tuesday night. |
Graig Abel Photography
"Our players are enthusiastic about displaying their skills and playing for hockey fans outside of North America," said NHLPA Senior Director Ted Saskin. "Not only will this be a memorable experience for the players on the Toronto Maple Leafs but it is also a unique opportunity for members of the participating Swedish and Finnish teams to compete against some of the greatest players in the game."
"This is an opportunity to once again showcase the NHL in front of a live international audience," said Ken Yaffe, group vice president and managing director of NHL International. "A team like the Toronto Maple Leafs given their rich tradition and strong following internationally will generate a lot of excitement to kick-off the new season and further strengthen the bond between the international hockey fan and the NHL."
The NHL Challenge 2003 will feature Maple Leafs training camp sessions at Hovet Arena in Stockholm Friday, Sept. 12 through Monday, Sept. 15. Toronto will then travel to Helsinki to play Jokerit of the Finnish Hockey League at Hartwall Arena on Tuesday, Sept. 16. This game will mark the first appearance of an NHL team in Finland since the Winnipeg Jets visited Helsinki in 1994.
The Maple Leafs will return to Stockholm Wednesday, Sept. 17 for a day of training and then face Swedish Elite team Djurgarden at the Globe Arena Thursday, Sept. 18. Toronto completes its NHL Challenge visit by playing a game against Swedish Hockey League 2001 Champion Farjestad at the Globe Arena Friday, Sept. 19. The NHL Challenge games will be officiated by NHL referees and linesmen and will be played in accordance with the rules and regulations that govern NHL games.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most storied franchises in sports history, capturing 13 Stanley Cup Championships since joining the NHL in 1917 (Toronto Arenas). As a member of the ?Original Six,? the Leafs claim forty-six members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Toronto has been captained for the past six seasons by Mats Sundin. An eight- time NHL All-Star selection, Sundin is the all-time leading Swedish-born goal scorer (423) and points leader (989) to play in the NHL. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sundin was named to the Olympic All-Star Team after leading the tournament in scoring (five goals, four assists).
| Mats Sundin is undoubtedly excited about training in Sweden next fall. |
Graig Abel Photography
"The Toronto Maple Leafs are proud to be part of NHL Challenge 2003," said Ken Dryden, president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "Toronto is a great international city and with the Leafs tradition and history we have a broad following in Canada and among hockey fans around the world. We are happy that the team of the Maple Leafs will represent the land of the maple leaf in Sweden and in Finland next fall."
The inaugural NHL Challenge, which took place in Stockholm in 2000, featured Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks conducted six days of training camp and competed in a three-day tournament against MoDo, AIK, and Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League. In 2001, the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche participated in the NHL Challenge, where they trained for seven days in Stockholm and played one game against Brynas of the Swedish Elite League.
Tickets for the NHL Challenge 2003 go on sale to the public Monday, Feb. 17 in Sweden and Monday, Feb. 24 in Finland. Sponsors for NHL Challenge-Stockholm include XBOX, LEGO Sports, EA Sports, Aftonbladet and SwedEvent. Sponsors for NHL Challenge-Helsinki include Helsinki Sanomat, XBOX, LEGO Sports, EA Sports and Nelonen. EMA Telstar, in association with IMG, the Globe Arena, the Swedish Hockey League, the Hartwall Arena and Jokerit is producing the event.
"We are happy to continue the successful relationship and cooperation with the NHL and NHLPA," said Thomas Johansson, chairman of EMA Telstar. "The NHL Challenge is an important event for all hockey fans in Sweden and Finland as well as for the development of Swedish and Finnish hockey."
NHL International Group Vice President and Managing Director Ken Yaffe, NHLPA Senior Director of Business Affairs and Licensing Ted Saskin, Toronto Maple Leafs President Ken Dryden and organizers of the tournament were in Helsinki and Stockholm today to make the announcement. The NHLPA and NHL have a long history of working together on international hockey initiatives and the development of many international competitions over the past thirty years.