Reports from ESPN have said that the NHL and NHLPA have reach agreements in regardless to the World Cup of Hockey, which will take place again in 2011 and in terms of Europeans games to be played in the next couple of season, which has been going on for the past two years now.
The reports are saying that there's a handshake agreement to have six teams open up the season in Europe next year and then in 2010, having eight teams open up their seasons there, as well. Which, if you're doing your math correctly, in another 12 years, we'll have all 30 teams start their seasons in Europe.....super.
My question is-- are their 15 cities in Europe that can actually hold an event like this, aside from the cities that have already been used?? I mean, obviously Helsinki and Moscow could be two possible locations for next season's openers, but are their any other hockey hardened nations in Europe to hold down the fort and keep this dream alive. You could probably put a place like Mannheim, Germay and Davos, Switzerland on the map too, but after those, does the NHL have to start repeating their previous cities?? Is there a notion that these cities are actually interested in having the NHL show up to their place and take over their rink in order to sell their game over the game of the host nation?? Does the NHL start going outside of Europe and try to hit up the Asian nations like Japan (again) and China to grow the sport that way??
There's only so many hockey powerful nations out there in Europe and once you use them up, is the NHL willing to bite the bullet and hold annual games in those cities that responded well to the first pass?? Does that really fulfill their inititive if they keep holding the NHL in the same place every year?? That doesn't really expand the game, per se-- but the exposure will be given to the places that actually want it.
Could this be considered a fail experiment if they can't get the full European exposure?? I don't think so. I don't think many people had too many high expectations when the game in London started. The NHL just took the gimmick and ran with it and so far the response has been "meh" as a whole, but the NHL will spin it to look like they are doing good thing for the European hockey scene-- which they should because that's what they pay their PR staff to do.
Personally, I'd love to see games in Europe that are unknown hockey nations. What about Budapest, Hungary; home of former Calgary Flame farmhand Levente Szuper?? How about Belfast, Ireland; home of Minnesota Wild forward Owen Nolan?? The NHL can take the Blackhawks to France where the country will not only surrender to the NHL, but they'll display the native son Cristobal Huet.
Yet, I think the topper would have to be the NHL to go to Reykjavík, Iceland and have Gunnar Stahl drop the first puck. Hey, it's just a thought.