TEPID TAKE: Global Series Will Yield Some Sort of NHL Europe League

f6f5688484f65d59_1000.jpeg

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.

On the Topic Of European/North American Hockey Relations

DV-ZOjwXcAYfya8

Photo from @OntarioReign

Did you know that there as an international friendly that happened on Tuesday in Ontario?? More likely not, as there wasn’t much pomp and circumstance on the grand scheme of things, but the Ontario Reign took on Eisbaren Berlin on Tuesday, with Ontario cruising to a 6-3 win in front of  over 8,700 fans– according to the Ontario Reign.

Looking at the highlights from their Twitter, the Berlin fans who were in attendance really made it for a European feel of chanting and constant energy throughout the game. However, it didn’t seem to get much of a ground swell outside of the Ontario and Berlin community. Hell, this is the first time since 2014 when Farjestad took on the AHL All-Stars and then the Toronto Marlies that international teams took on North American teams during the regular season– as far as I know, that is.

There’s something to be said about the idea of international teams coming to North America to play against AHL teams, something more to be said when it has to deal with the AHL squads beating those international teams. Sure, the teams coming over may not bring their best line-up, especially since those teams are also in season. However– wouldn’t it be something to see more of these international friendlies and actually have them promoted by outside media sources in order to garner a little more appeal?? Of course it would, we all love hockey and getting to know more teams outside of the North American bubble would be a nice change of pace for some people.

When it comes to something like this, there’s two ways to go about it. First, get more teams active in forming a sister cities approach to international teams. Have each AHL or ECHL team adopt a European team and keep track that way. While it would be much harder to get the ECHL team to agree to it since they often have players defect to Europe to play, the idea could be there for the AHL by the parent organizations to almost compare ideas of coaching and playing styles and all that fun crap. It may be a hard-sell, but something that could be done. Ontario and Berlin came together if only because The Anschutz Group owns both teams.

The second way to go about it is to find a way to have more international tournaments for the minor league teams to participate in. While the Spengler Cup is a tournament that once in a blue moon invites AHL teams to their party (mainly the Rochester Americans), there needs to be more ideas.

One could be the idea of putting the Calder Cup champions in the Champions Hockey League. Yes, it could create havoc on scheduling, but to have a North American representation would be a big boost for the North American game and get people more invested in the European side of things. But, like I said, the schedule in Europe allows a lot more leeway for the teams to play in their country league and the Champions’ league– so many North American leagues would be pretty hard pressed to have involvement, but at the same time– one can dream about it.

There’s untapped potential when it comes to having European teams come over to North America more frequently and vice versa. The hardest point is to actually find a way to make it happen logistically and not just force down people’s throat like an outdoor game we’ve seen time and time again. You need to have it frequent enough to make people want to see it, but infrequent enough that you don’t over-saturate the marketplace.

Sadly, hockey marketing teams everywhere have yet to figure out that balance. So it goes. The dream is alive, but sleep hard before it becomes a reality.