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European players applaud NHL-MTG broadcast deal

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Olli Jokinen was 18 years old when he saw his first NHL game. As a young goaltender growing up in Sweden, Johan Hedberg watched old tapes of Pelle Lindbergh from his days with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Young hockey players growing up in Scandanavia will have more television access to their favorite NHL stars than they had as kids growing up in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden after the League finalized a broadcast rights deal Thursday with Modern Times Group (MTG) that allows access to every NHL game live via television, mobile and broadband for the next five seasons.

"A lot of kids want to see NHL games and now that it's possible, it's going to be huge," Detroit's Valterri Filppula said. "Thinking back, when I was growing up I wish I could've seen games, so definitely it's a good thing."

"A lot of kids want to see NHL games and now that it's possible, it's going to be huge. Thinking back, when I was growing up I wish I could've seen games, so definitely it's a good thing."
-- Red Wings' Valterri Filppula

Added Jokinen: "It's good for NHL, obviously. It's more exposure and there are a lot of hockey fans in Europe who want to see NHL games. It's probably tough hours for a lot of people there but there's some big fans over there who love to watch hockey 24/7, so it's good."

Residents in each of the four Nordic countries will be able to see every regular-season game live as well as every Stanley Cup Playoff game each season on its pay-TV channels and Viaplay online multi-screen video streaming service across the Nordic region. Certain games also will be made available on MTG's free-TV channels.

There has been access to NHL games in the past, but this is an unprecedented amount of live contests. There will also be an NHL-produced highlight show debuting in the coming months.

"Obviously it's huge," Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen said. "There are brothers and parents can watch the games because they can't come here too often. You can probably ask them if they like watching the games. I would think it's nice."

Added Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg: "It's gotten better and better and the last few years it's been really good. A lot of friends ... all of a sudden after a game you get a call and it's 4 or 5 (a.m.) back home. I say, 'What are you doing up?' and they say, 'I watched the game,' so it's pretty cool for them to be able to watch games and also for our parents -- so they can watch games or DVR the game and see it in the morning when they wake up. It's come a long way."

Henrik Zetterberg
Left Wing - DET
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 1
SOG: 20 | +/-: 1
The number of European-born players in the NHL continues to grow, and the League has now played regular-season games in Europe for five consecutive years as part of the NHL Premiere series. Players like Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom are superstars in North America, let alone the amount of fanfare they receive in their home countries.
 
This season players like Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and New York's Henrik Lundqvist were feted by their hometown fans, while four NHL teams played exhibitions games in seven different cities before the regular-season contests in Helsinki, Stockholm and Berlin.

"Especially in Sweden they're looking at, 'Who are the Swedish players and who are the players that Swedes would follow?'" Lidstrom said. "(It's been great), especially last year ... they showed three or four games a week from around the League. It wasn't necessarily our games, but some of our games were played and they're trying to pick up some of the games with European players in them. So (my parents) have been trying whenever they can, whenever they're showing our games ... they would watch."

Added Zetterberg: "I will say Nick and Lundqvist are big back home, too. We have so many Swedes that it involves so many people back home and that's why it's so popular back home. The NHL is real popular back home, even if all the games are (late at night), a lot of people are watching."


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