Is Opening the Season in Europe Good for the NHL?

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October 9, 2010

Is Opening the Season in Europe Good for the NHL? On a beautiful sun-soaked Saturday in New England, the Boston Bruins opened up their regular season schedule half a world away as the sun was setting in Prague, Czech Republic.

The weather in the greater Boston area didn't exactly scream "hockey season," but with the Bruins on a different continent, it didn't seem to matter much either way. That may be because, as the Bruins become the latetst NHL team to start the season across the pond, it's tough to get excited for the hockey season when it's so far away.

The Bruins open their American slate of games next Saturday in New Jersey, roughly a week and a half into the season. And while the NHL obviously likes being able to promote their product not just in North America, but the rest of the world, you have to wonder at what cost.

For starters, as great as an experience that it may be for teams tabbed to showcase the NHL overseas, teams do run the risks of throwing off the beginning of the season with all of the travel involved. Of course, the past two Stanley Cup champions started their seasons in Europe, but there still must be some sort of an effect.

Also, both teams lose a home game on their schedule, something that probably affects fans more than the team itself. Look at a team like the Bruins who have generated plenty of interest in New England this year, who now have one less chance to play in front of a TD Garden crowd.

If exposure is a driving reason for opening in Europe, perhaps the NHL could look into opening the season in different American cities where hockey is not played. Could it be more advantagious to cultivate the game here in America than bringing it to Europe?

The NHL is going to likely keep sending teams to Europe. The league values its European fanbase and this is the biggest and best way they can show fans they appreciate the support.

That logic may make sense on the surface, but club leagues are very popular in Europe. It's not like Europeans don't have hockey they can watch, but it's probably pretty special for the people of the Czech Republic to see David Krejci come home and play in front of his countrymen.

There are pros and cons of having the NHL start its season in Europe, but, overall, is opening the season in Europe good for the NHL?

 Saturday, Oct. 9: What are your expectations for the Bruins this season?

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