The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will kick off the 2008-2009 NHL season far away from their home rinks. Their first two games of the season will be played in Stockholm, Sweden.
I have no idea why the NHL would want to do this for a regular season game. First, it is not fair to either team to have one of their 41 home games counted for this trip. In all sports, home field advantage plays a crucial role for teams, and by sending a team to Europe to play a 'home' game is just ridiculous.
What the NHL should have done instead was set up a few preseason games in Europe or wherever, and had teams play those games. This would allow for the NHL to test the market first, and see how teams themselves responded to the new atmosphere of playing in a different country/continent.
You would have thought that the NHL would have learned from what the NFL did a few years ago, having the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins play in England. For the NFL it was a great money maker, but neither team had time to really prepare or get ready for the trip, and only having a week to get accustomed to the time difference and make sure that all preparations were made was not a fair thing to put either team through.
Now that is one good thing the NHL did here. They did not allow for these games to be played in the middle of the season, but rather used the first games. This will at least allow the Penguins and Senators the chance to get over to Stockholm early enough to get used to the time shift and have ample time to get ready for their games.
Even though I do not really agree with playing regular season games outside of the US/Canada, I still think that what the NHL is trying to do is a good idea. The NHL now has to compete with these 'super' leagues popping up in Europe. The only way to keep players in the NHL and to bring in more European players is to showcase what the NHL has to offer to youths trying to decide which league they want to play in.
The NHL should have tested this well before planning on having regular season games played outside of North America. I think that overall, it is a bad idea for the NHL, and Pittsburgh and Ottawa will be the ones that have suffer from this poor decision.
Maybe in the future games can be played outside of our continent, but for now the NHL needs to worry about progressing itself in the eyes of the US/Canada market. Once it has enough of a following there, then should it try to go outside of its borders.