NHL is the best hockey league in the world, there is no doubt about that. Teams from Canada and USA compete every year for the holy grail of the fastest game in the world: the mighty Stanley Cup. But National Hockey League is not just about Northern America. Many of the best players in the league such as William Nylander, Leon Draisaitl, Artemi Panarin, Eric Karlsson, Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak or Patrick Laine come from the Europe and there is a huge fan base in this continent. People go to bed late or wake up early because they want to see their favorite players and teams play. They literally break their sleeping schedule for hockey.
NHL knows and appreciates it and that is one of the main reasons why this league started to organize games in Europe. Sometimes just friendly exhibitions before the season, sometimes the season openers and now the NHL Global Series, regular season hockey games where teams need to perform to get important points in the battle for the play-offs. From the end of the 90s NHL teams have come to Europe on different occasions, more specifically to Prague, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tampere, Bratislava, Bern, or Berlin.
William Nylander with Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (IG/mapleleafs)
Pinnacle of the hockey world
This year’s NHL Global Series was held in Avicii Arena in the capital of Sweden, Stockholm. Beautiful city nicknamed as Venezia of North welcomed the best hockey league in the world for the four consecutive days, when Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild played two games each.
I travelled to Stockholm to the game between the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings. It was amazing to see performances by incredible players on both sides, especially Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Dylan Larkin, and Alex DeBrincat. Canadian team beat the Wings 3-2 when they were two goals behind after penalty shot from Daniel Sprong and surgically accurate slapshot from Lucas Raymond. Goals by Tyler Bertuzzi, William Nylander and John Tavares in the last period decided the game. Fair to say, I was positively surprised by performances of Detroit’s goalie Alex Lyon & defender Shayne Gostisbehere and Toronto’s checking liners Noah Gregor & David Kämpf. Hats off, all of you! I noticed that both Tyler Bertuzzi and David Kämpf were using Rezztek® on their sticks instead of hockey tape.
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (IG/detroitredwings)
The TOP teams in the TOP league = TOP experience. More than 13,000 spectators in Avicii Arena (named after Tim Bergling aka Avicii, one of the best musicians of our lifetime) saw the pinnacle of the hockey world. NHL knows how to do the show, they always deliver. It was my third NHL game after Philadelphia Flyers v Chicago Blackhawks in Prague (2019) and Nashville Predators v San Jose Sharks (2022) in Prague too. I can honestly say that the NHL is improving in the right direction, they have pre-game and post-game activities and many types of content filling the spaces between periods, interruptions, and commercial breaks.
It’s about the experience
People from NHL know that the competition with other sports, especially in the US, is though, so they always need to be alert and ready to put their game on a whole new level. From my point of view, the Prague is better prepared for this kind of games than Stockholm, you can see it when you enter the stadium or during waiting for the food, drinks, merchandise, or toilets. Maybe it’s about the experience. I am sure that Stockholm did their best and the game which I attended was sold out, but for example clash between the Red Wings and the Senators a day ago wasn’t which is a pity.
NHL Global Series 2023 was the first time in history when was the National Hockey League played for four consecutive days out of the Northern America. It will be interesting to observe if it will become a new trend. After all, stats will decide, and we should also not forget economic side of the matter. Hockey is the most favorite sport in many European countries and people from Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, or Austria will always welcome NHL in their home country. Every game of the best league in the world is like mini festival of hockey. And to see at least one of them live? That’s the experience which will last for a lifetime
Featured Image Credits: NHL Global Series 2023 (NHL)