October 5, 2011


4 teams, 3 Countries, 4 NHL regular season games. NHL Premiere is back this weekend with the Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, LA Kings And Buffalo Sabres taking part in games across Sweden, Germany and Finland.

After being lucky enough myself to witness the 1st ever NHL regular season games in Europe between Anaheim and LA in London back in 2007 I would expect the atmosphere and the excitement in the cities lucky enough to host these games will currently be immense. The hype that will be built up across Stockholm, Helsinki and Berlin will be at boiling point. Home fans of teams that play out of these arena’s will have been queuing for tickets, rival teams fans will have been snapping them up and I’m sure there will also be a host of travelling fans from outside these countries attending these games, getting that glimpse of their heroes from across the pond that normally they wouldn’t get the chance of.

What will the on ice action bring? The teams have been travelling a lot and although there is prestige in playing in these games it is a tough pre season schedule, probably tougher than a preseason back home. All teams are generally rough around the edges going into the start of a season so all 4 teams will be looking not only for results but some sort of performance and to hit good form from the go. There will be players in the line ups that are at new teams wanting to impress as well as players that have come through training camps who have made line ups and wanting to stay there. It will be interesting to see who the star performers over these games are and intriguing to see if they go on to make an impression over the 82 games.

All 4 teams have been promoting not only their own brand whilst playing in friendly games in these but the brand of the NHL and promoting Ice Hockey Worldwide. This will no doubt bring in sales of products relating to these teams and the NHL but currently the European fans and market are still in the dark as to where they will be able to see all the stars of the game after the Premiere as there are currently still no TV rights to show NHL games across the whole of Europe in place.

ESPN’s contract ran out at the end of last season’s playoffs and the NHL and although the NHL have signed a 5 year contract with Medge Consulting and AMI to represent the rights of the NHL in Europe, Africa and the Middle East these are merely brokers that were brought in to get the NHL the best deals from TV stations in a hope to up the NHL’s revenue.

Living in England and relying on ESPN last season for all my live NHL coverage I was originally disheartened by the news above. I used ESPN player last season allowing me to watch every game live or on demand if I so wished so. It was a reasonable price and had good coverage. I also had ESPN TV which meant if I wanted to watch a game on a bigger screen, I was able to watch a certain schedule still through them. A lot of people in England will now not have access to a similar service, at least at the start of the season.

What is available for the first time in Europe is NHL GameCentre Live, which is a similar service to ESPN Player. A few pence difference in price but looking at the service they offer it could prove to be more value for money. The multi view option looks extremely good for keeping an eye on multiple games starting in different time zones, especially on nights when the Redwings aren’t playing and I’m unsure which games to watch!

Hopefully a proper TV deal for the NHL will be sorted for all of Europe sooner rather than later to allow the fans the chance to see the greatest show worldwide – which all kicks off within the next few days!

By Adam Yates

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