It isn’t just Gary Bettman who is trying to grow the NHL. The Ottawa Senators, clearly looking to expand the reach of the franchise, should look internationally.
With the outdoor game secured, the next big project for Tom Anselmi is to organise an international game. Sweden appears to be the venue, and rightly so. Captain fantastic Erik Karlsson hails from Landsboro, Sweden and began his career with Frolunda HC.
Double vision perhaps? You’ve seen this before? Of course you have, when the Sens took Daniel Alfredsson home to Gothenburg for the second year of the NHL premiere in 2008. Alfredsson got to play against his hometown (and old) team and an NHL fixture against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The time has come once more to bring another Swedish hero home. If you view this with a cynical mind, it is a great way to keep your captain and most talented player happy. On the more logical side, it is a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of Ottawa Senators hockey.
There hasn’t been an NHL premiere weekend for five years, and European fans are craving it.
“So what? I don’t care what happens in Europe”
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Well, you should. Just take a little glance at the NFL’s success in the UK. A slower moving, more drawn out game than our own has spread like wildfire across the pond. Over four 90,000 seat sellout games a year at the minimum now.
The NHL has missed out on China in my opinion, I know there’s talk of targeting the next winter olympics. The success of the Kunlun Red Star will give the KHL the green light to tap into that market.
Therefore, Europe is the logical destination. If the NFL can do it, the NHL can. What does all of this have to do with the Ottawa Senators? Growth, from my experience with sports, internationalism is only a positive.
My roots are in football in the UK, and you can easily purchase a Manchester United jersey in most countries. The same cannot be said of a Chicago Blackhawks sweater. The NHL needs to step up its international standing and reach out to Europe. Ottawa Senators sweaters already sell in volume in Sweden due to the adoration of Karlsson. The Sens must use their deep rooted connection with the nordic country to further grow the young franchise.
“How does this affect the everyday fan?”
It does and it doesn’t. Not only will it financially secure the club and the league for years to come, it will increase tourism to Canada. When people visit the country, they are often told to catch “the nations game”. Which puts them in seats and stores, and occasionally skates. On what basis is this premonition made? I, myself began playing Ice Hockey after a trip to Toronto on vacation.
You can also see Joe Blogg, the season ticket holder’s point of view also. Highly doubting that the Sens are going to fly him to Sweden for this fixture, he is a game short. Does it bear reminding that there are 41 regular home season games? Come on, this surely wouldn’t be the end of the world.