NHL plans to head back to Europe next season for Global Series, including opener in Prague

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday in Helsinki, Finland, that the NHL expects to return to Europe for its Global Series next season. Bettman was on hand for Thursday’s matchup between the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers and said the NHL has tentative plans to visit Prague, Stockholm, Germany and Switzerland in 2019. 

“We’re in the planning stages of playing preseason games in Germany and Switzerland,” Bettman said, per NHL.com. “We’re looking at playing a season-opening game in Prague and then two games in November in Stockholm. Again, it’s all in the planning board. They’re not official. I don’t have dates, I don’t have teams, but that’s what’s on the drawing board as we speak.”

The Panthers and the Jets squared off on Thursday in Hartwall Arena, and will do so again on Friday.

“The hockey countries in Europe have done a fantastic job developing hockey players, great hockey players,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who’s also in Finland. “We have a lot in the National Hockey League.”

The NHL started the Global Series in 2017, when the Avalanche and Senators played games in Stockholm, Sweden. For 2018, the NHL expanded the slate, with two exhibition games, an opener and a back-to-back. It appears the NHL will continue to follow that template in 2019. The NHL clearly now hopes to make the Global Series an annual back-to-back in order to expand its international audience. It follows the efforts of other leagues, as the NFL continues to play games in London and Mexico and MLB has games in 2019 lined up in Tokyo and London.

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