The National Hockey League has rewarded its European fans with a treat: a set of season opening games in Sweden and the Czech Republic.
NHL Premiere 2008 brings the league across the ocean. The New York Rangers and The Tampa Bay Lighting will face off in Prague, while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins go head-to-head in Stockholm.
What, no Maple Leafs? Of course, it’s in the NHL’s best interest to send only good product abroad.
Joking aside, the teams were strategically chosen: Sweden’s Daniel Alfredsson captains the Senators, and Czech Petr Prucha plays for the Rangers. Considering the status of these stars in their homelands, the amount of exposure and hype surrounding Premiere 2008 will be huge.
It’s surprising that it’s taken the NHL this long to host a game off of North American soil. Major League Baseball has had season openers in Japan and the Caribbean for a few years now, and European football teams have held preseason games on this side of the pond.
Better late than never, though, and fans in (other) hockey-crazed nations will have a chance to see their teams and heroes in action.
Bridgestone, the official tire of the NHL, has been named title sponsor of NHL Premiere 2008. It’s a coup for Bridgestone: already the “official tire” of the NHL, the company has more than doubled its exposure and reached a whole new set of potential consumers.
Premiere 2008 will be a litmus test for the NHL: if it’s a success, more games will be added next year. The league might even be contemplating an eventual expansion into Europe.
Canadians are more than happy to share. Just as long as some of Europe’s finest brings the Stanley Cup back to Canada for the first time in 15 years.[ad]