With the NHL’s Global Series drawn to a close for another year, commissioner Gary Bettman has announced plans to bring it back in 2019. Germany and Switzerland have been touted for some potential pre-season games, while Prague and Stockholm could get a season opener and back to back series respectively. Of course this is all tentative at the moment, although the NHL is in the planning stages.
I feel there’s another European market that’s open to exploitation, but is being ignored. The mighty UK. The NFL hauls a couple of its teams over each season to ruin the Wembley turf and the games pretty much always sell out, and there’s a huge following for North American sports (except maybe baseball).
It’s happened before, but not since 2007. London’s O2 Arena has hosted games, and there are plenty of other rinks available. The problem is those other rinks aren’t particularly big, not compared to NHL arenas. This is a big factor because as much as fans want to see their favourite teams, Uncle Gary also wants to get paid, so the more tickets that can be sold, the better. To that end, I have a proposal:
Combine the Stadium & Global Series.
As ideas go, this one is flawless. The UK has some of the best stadia in the world. I’ve prepared a shortlist for the NHL to consider (I’ve heard Bettman reads this site), teams should be clamouring to rack up the air-miles for an outdoor game (especially the Blackhawks, who’ve not played a game under a roof since 2001).
90,000 seats and plenty of space for retail stands. The national stadium already hosts NFL games, as well as a multitude of other sports, and is flexible enough to host an ice rink. With the right teams, the NHL could sell 90,000 tickets if they were reasonably priced and those teams could find themselves a lot of new fans. The only downside is that Wembley is down south, while the majority of hockey fans are in the north of England and Scotland. Also the pies sold at Wembley are quite expensive.
If the good teams don’t want to make the journey, the nearby Wembley Arena has a capacity of around 12,000 and has a proud history of hosting ice hockey games (including the occasional NHL game).
Cardiff’s biggest stadium seats between 74,000 and 78,000. This may be less than Wembley, but it’s still higher than any of the Stadiums that have been used so far in the Stadium Series. The NHL has never played a game in Wales before, and if the Washington Capitals can be tempted over, it’ll be a homecoming for Nathan Walker who was born in the country. Despite being smaller, the previously named Millennium Stadium has two advantages over Wembley; it has a fully closable roof, should the famous British rain show up, and the pies are also cheaper (and apparently better).
BT Murrayfield Stadium
North of the border (in Scotland), there are plenty of NHL fans waiting to pack out the 67,000 seat stadium. Although mostly a rugby stadium, Murrayfield in Edinburgh has hosted football (American and proper) in its time. No ice hockey, although there’s always a first time for everything. The food is good, reasonably priced and the city is awesome for a weekend break.
The UK has a huge group of NHL fans eager to see their favourite team take to the ice, going all the way back to the some London fella named Fred Stanley.