NHL opens season with European games

Matthew Bacon
Journal Staff

This past weekend kicked off the beginning of the 2011-2012 regular season for the National Hockey league.  For the fourth consecutive year, four NHL teams played their first two games overseas.
The New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings played games in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Berlin. The weekend was a homecoming event for European born players like New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne, and Buffalo’s Jochen Hecht.
The NHL European premier was full of excitement and surprises. Upstart Buffalo jumped out of the gate, beating Anaheim 4-1 in its opener, and LA 4-2 in its second game.
The only team to leave Europe without a win was the New York Rangers. Although they hold bragging rights to signing this off-season’s most sought after talent, Brad Richards, they lost both of their games in Stockholm in overtime.
The games were broadcasted on the NBC Sports affiliate, Versus, and was viewed by hundreds of thousands nation-wide. The event was intended to be a PR stunt for the NHL, and to showcase the unity between North American and European hockey. It also gave European fans a chance to see some of their hometown heroes in action for the first time in years.