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NHL aims to have 'regular, predictable calendar' of overseas events

League will focus on European markets with strong hockey infrastructure for future regular-season games

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

STOCKHOLM -- The 2017 SAP NHL Global Series could be the start of another longstanding run of playing regular-season games in European markets that's similar to the NHL Premiere, which ran from 2007-11.

"The vision and hope is to establish a more regular and predictable presence for our international events," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said prior to the first of two Global Series games between the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators at Ericsson Globe on Friday.

The Senators and Avalanche play again Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV).

"While we currently have worldwide sponsorship and advertising and licensing agreements, in order for us to really begin to grow the game internationally -- which is great for fans who are following the game from outside North America in North America and encourages the continuing development of world-class players, Sweden being a great example -- we need to have regular presence with events," Commissioner Bettman said. "The international strategy doesn't work without major events, whether it's exhibition games against local clubs, preseason games, regular-season games, clinics and the like. That's something that we do in conjunction with the Players' Association, and that's something we're in discussions with them on and working on. But our hope is to establish a regular predictable calendar."

The Global Series games are the 27th and 28th regular-season NHL games overseas. The League played regular-season games in London, Stockholm, Prague, Helsinki and Berlin during the run of the NHL Premiere. It previously played regular-season games in Tokyo and Saitama, Japan.

Commissioner Bettman said the League will be focused on European markets with strong hockey infrastructure for future regular-season games. He said continuing to bring the NHL to strong European hockey markets will allow fans to gain a greater interest in the League and continue to encourage the development of world-class players.

Commissioner Bettman cited Sweden as an example. He said 10 percent of current NHL players come from Sweden and that more than 300 Swedes have combined to play 90,000 NHL regular-season games and approximately 8,000 more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He said they've combined for roughly 15,000 goals and 30,000 assists.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it takes time to determine the level of success of the games played in Europe because they aren't necessarily a moneymaker for the NHL.

"I'm not sure there's a way to know immediately how much impact you've had," Daly said. "Certainly, the barometer coming in is, is there enough interest in the game that you're selling out the building, you're selling your tickets, are you selling your tickets at good ticket prices, which I think we've been able to do with these two games."

Daly said the demand for the two Global Series games in Stockholm was higher than the demand for the Premiere Games in 2011, which featured Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers playing the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.

"A little bit surprising to me," Daly said. "The fact that in six years we're even more popular than we were before, a lot of that has to do with Swedish content, the way we've been able to increase the number of Swedish-born players playing in the League. But a lot of it is, I think, because the League's in a better place. I think kind of the longer-term, bigger-picture strategy is working, and if we remain committed to it and stay the course I think it could really help grow our business."

Daly said the NHL would have interest in bringing preseason games to markets that might not be as strong as some of the others in Europe but are on the League's radar for growth and opportunity. NHL teams played preseason games against local teams in Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Russia, Latvia and smaller cities in Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland during the Premiere era.

"I think a mix of having exhibitions and regular-season NHL games is the right formula," Daly said.

Daly also said the League will likely be returning to China next year for two more preseason games. The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings played two preseason games as part of the 2017 China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging in Shanghai on Sept. 21 and Beijing on Sept. 23.

"I definitely think we were pleased with the games and the outcome of the games and certainly encouraged to continue the effort, so I would expect that," he said. "Nothing is set in stone, but we're working with the Players' Association to bring two more teams back there next year."

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