If you hadn’t heard or randomly saw on your fantasy rosters that there were afternoon games randomly on a Thursday– the NHL is over in Finland in Part II of their Global Series, as the Devils and Oilers were Part I at the beginning of the season in Sweden, which was after the Devils and Flames were in China in the pre-season.
Of course, Gary Bettman was in Helsinki to take in the action, to which he had a press conference to talk about the next round of Global Series games for the 2019-20 season; though nothing was set into stone. Tentative plans have the games in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
In the past 25 years, the NHL has tinkered with these regular season games overseas. The Ducks and Canucks, Flames and Sharks, Predators and Penguins all had regular season games in Toyko in the late ’90s as the NHL tried to expand their footprint. Recently, the NHL Premiere games were a thing to kick off the season in Europe with London, Prauge, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Berlin (to name a few) to hold NHL regular season games with teams that had player who were natives in those countries. With the China games, those were more like the Toyko games in the ’90s to expand a global footprint and get more marketing that way.
While this is all well and good for the league in getting international exposure, when ever you hear about North American pro sports leagues and another continent– the discussion turns to when they’re going to create a league that is the major league brand, but in an overseas location. Sure, NFL Europe fails, but with the London games and the fact they don’t travel as heavily, the idea of an NFL team in England isn’t out of bound.
I mentioned the travel because I’m not going to suggest that the NHL put an expansion team into Europe or Asia…I am probably going to suggest the NHL find a way to brand the Champions Hockey League as their own to get full European exposure for the league’s champions, as well as get fans to watch the Champions League and notice some European teams they may not have know prior to the NHL taking it over.
Now, trying to get the Champions League away from the IIHF would take A LOT of doing, but it’s something that could really get the NHL their exposure they need in Europe. They make some kind of big trophy for it that almost mimics the Stanley Cup or something like that to keep the branding on-point– kind of like that dumb IKEA lamp of a trophy that’s used during the World Cup of Hockey. Get that going and watch the money roll in.
Sure, this won’t work in the way I present it because the NHL doesn’t have their team brandings anywhere and they will need a lot of league branding to really make it worth their while– but it’s something they should look into. It’s an established league that has a lot of stuff in place, which would just mean the NHL can slap their logo over everything (like European jerseys and ice…and NHL ice these days) and call it a day.
It’s almost leaning towards the NHL making something of a European league. Maybe even taking over the KHL…though that wouldn’t be as widespread as the Champions league would be. The KHL could need the money and if they can buy out those owners and then rebrand those teams with some NHL-esque logos and go from there. One way or another the NHL is going to takeover something to put a mark on Europe that far outreaches the Global Series game.