NEW YORK – The National Hockey League will return to Europe with regular-season games in Helsinki, Prague and Stockholm. Exhibition games will include a return to Russia after 20 years and the first landing of an NHL team on the island of Ireland. Washington will play at Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic.
The 2010-11 NHL regular-season will launch on two continents next October with the league celebrating its fourth straight year of regular-season games held in Europe. Three venues with NHL experience were selected with Helsinki, Prague and Stockholm.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild will play two regular-season games against each other at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki on Thursday, Oct. 7 and Friday, Oct. 8.
The Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks will square off for two games at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm on Friday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 9.
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and the Phoenix Coyotes will play each other at O2 Arena in Prague on Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10.
Prior to the start of the regular season in October, all six NHL teams will face European teams in a series of exhibition games spanning across Europe.
It will be the first time in 20 years that an NHL team appears on Russian soil when Carolina plays SKA St. Petersburg, the club chaired by KHL president Alexander Medvedev, on October 4 at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg.
Since 1991, when Dynamo Moscow defeated the Quebec Nordiques 4-1 in Quebec City, there has only been one NHL vs. Russia game in 2008 when the New York Rangers won the first Victoria Cup in dramatic fashion against Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 4-3. One year later, the Chicago Blackhawks lost the Victoria Cup to Switzerland’s ZSC Lions Zurich, 2-1.
On October 6, the Phoenix Coyotes will play against another KHL team, Dinamo Riga, at Arena Riga in Riga, Latvia.
The last time NHL teams played exhibition games on Russian soil was in 1990 just before the split-up of the Soviet Union. The Montreal Canadiens and the Minnesota North Stars finished the Friendship Tour ’90 with a 3-5 record against the Soviet club teams. Riga and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) were part of the tour that also included Kyiv and Moscow.
Exhibition games will also be played in Belfast (United Kingdom) and Mannheim (Germany). It will be the first time ever that an NHL team travels to Ireland, and an NHL team playing in Mannheim will be a premiere, too.
On the other hand there will be no games in Asia as the New York Islanders reportedly cancelled their plans to hold part of the pre-season in China.Click here for a list of international games of NHL teams in the past.
The season in North America will begin with two games each in Canada and the United States. The Toronto Maple Leafs hosts archrival Montreal Canadiens. As part of an opening-night doubleheader, the Edmonton Oilers will host the Calgary Flames.
In the U.S. both Stanley Cup finalists will take to the ice when the Philadelphia Flyers play Pittsburgh, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks squaring off against the Colorado Avalanche.
The 2011 NHL Winter Classic lands at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin lead their respective teams in the outdoor classic when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington on New Year’s Day.
The NHL’s fiercest rivalry will face-off at 1 p.m. ET in the classic, which Forbes magazine calls the best new sporting event of the last decade. NBC will provide live broadcast coverage of the game in the U.S. In Canada, CBC and RDS will televise the event live.
The NHL also hopes to play an outdoor regular season game in Canada next season and will be discussing the plan with the Competition Committee in June. The Heritage Classic would be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, February 20 and would feature the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. Assuming plans for the game are approved, it will be the first NHL regular season game contested outdoors in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at first Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium on November 22, 2003.Click here for a list of games held outdoor or in stadiums.
Other events announced by the NHL include the All-Star Celebration (Jan. 29) and the All-Star Game (Jan. 30) that will be hosted for the first time in Raleigh by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on Wednesday, April 13. The last possible date for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Friday, June 17, 2011.
The 2011 NHL Awards will be handed in Las Vegas, on June 22, and the Minnesota Wild will host the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, June 24-25, in St. Paul.
– with files from the National Hockey League