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TV deal brings Christmas early to Scandinavia

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

I‘m thinking it might be a pretty good time to be a hockey fan living in Scandinavia right about now, especially if you’re a fan of the Red Wings.

The NHL announced a landmark deal this week that will allow for every single regular-season game – that’s 1,230 games in all – to be broadcast live on pay channels or free TV in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

With more than 25 percent of NHL players hailing from outside of North America, and 50 percent alone on the Wings’ roster, league games have always attracted large TV audiences in the Nordic region. And that’s certainly something that the league has capitalized on, particularly over the last five years when they send NHL teams to Europe to begin the season.

The Wings, you’ll remember, started the 2009-10 campaign with a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm.

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is grateful for the NHL deal so that his parents back home can watch the Wings with more regularity.

“Last year they were showing up to three NHL games over there,” he said. “So my parents saw some of our games. But I think, especially in Sweden, the people want to follow the Swedish players.”

The TV deal is a far cry when Lidstrom was growing up. Back then, he said, the only live NHL games that were available back home were the Stanley Cup finals.

“They would usually show highlights, but at odd times,” Lidstrom said. “But now if they show 7:30 games from here at 1:30, in the middle of the night, they at least replay them around 7:30 in the morning, so you can at least get the scores, if not watch the whole game.”
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