Four NHL teams will play in three European capital cities as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere and NHL Face-Off, the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association announced Monday.
Berlin, Helsinki and Stockholm are the three cities involved in the regular-season games that will help kick off the 2011-12 NHL season and mark the fifth-straight campaign the League will play games in Europe. It will be the first NHL regular-season game in Germany, while the League is set to stage games in the Swedish capital for the fourth-straight season and the Finnish capital for a third-consecutive campaign.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will travel to Europe for the first time since they opened the 2007-08 season with two games in London, while the New York Rangers are back after opening the 2008-09 campaign in Prague. Buffalo is the fourth team, and the Sabres will be playing their first regular-season games in Europe, though they did play a series of exhibition games in Austria in 1998.
Anaheim and Buffalo will play Friday, Oct. 7 at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki and New York and Los Angeles will square off at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. The next day the Sabres and Kings will play at O2 World Arena in Berlin while the Rangers and Ducks clash in Stockholm.
"The Compuware NHL Premiere Games underscore the strength of our game, the popularity of our players and the international appeal of our brand," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "With a new format that varies each team's opponents; with the participation of the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, and with the debut of Berlin's 02 World Arena as a regular-season NHL venue, these games will play a significant role in launching our 2011-12 campaign."
Anaheim will play an exhibition game Tuesday, Oct. 4 against Jokerit, a power in SM-Liga, at Hartwall Arena. Los Angeles will play an exhibition contest at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany, that same day.
Approximately 25 percent of the players in the NHL this season were born outside North America. The 2011 Compuware Premiere games could be a chance for Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to play NHL games in his native Sweden for the first time. Lundqvist has represented Sweden in the past two Winter Olympics.
Fellow Rangers player Mats Zuccarello is from nearby Norway, but he earned MVP honors in Elitserien, the top league in Sweden, in 2010. With the Ducks playing in Finland, it could be a chance for the country to welcome native hero Teemu Selanne. Nicknamed "The Finnish Flash," Selanne hasn't committed to playing another season but the 40-year-old had an incredible 2010-11 regular season with 31 goals and 80 points.
Anaheim has three other Finnish players -- Saku Koivu, Jarkko Ruutu and Toni Lydman -- on the roster. Buffalo boasts German-born Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek, who hails from bordering Austria. Berlin is also less than 600 miles from the hometown of Kings star Anze Kopitar, the only Slovenian-born player in League history.
"We want to grow the NHL game around the world, and the Compuware NHL Premiere games are an important part of that effort," NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said. "We are excited to continue to bring NHL hockey to European fans in their home markets where they can watch players from their home countries play with and against the best in the world. These will be memorable games."