Friday and Saturday, the National Hockey League will play their first regular season games overseas since October 2011.
The SAP Global Series will pit a home-and-home set (in a manner of speaking) between the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators in Stockholm, Sweden. Notable names such as Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado) and Erik Karlsson (Ottawa) will have the rare chance to play a meaningful NHL game in their home country.
With their plethora of players from Sweden and Finland, one wonders if the Nashville Predators could be chosen to play overseas in the future. But would they welcome the opportunity or would it be an unnecessary distraction from the real goal of a Stanley Cup?
“Being Scandinavian, I think that would be great,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “Maybe one day we’ll get an opportunity to go.”
On the current roster, Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Aberg are all from Sweden while Rinne, Miikka Salomaki and Juuse Saros are from Finland.
Rounding out the European crop are Roman Josi, Kevin Fiala and Yannick Weber who are all from Switzerland.
“In Europe, there’s a strong fan base and people are really interested in the NHL,” Rinne said. “A lot of teams have big support groups over there.”
It stands to reason the Preds are one of those teams. Not only because of their sheer volume of Swedes, Finns and Swiss players but also because they just drew the hockey worlds attention to Music City with their impressive run to the Cup Final in which thousands of fans packed the streets just to be a part of the festivities.
The games this weekend between the Avs and Sens were scheduled in March, well before that magical run happened. Perhaps, if the NHL continues the experiment, the Nashville organization will be a part of it.
“We have a lot of Swedish guys so I’m sure there’s a lot of people following our games over there,” Rinne said. “So maybe one day.”
GRAPHIC courtesy of the NHL