Avalanche, Senators to play 2 regular-season games in Sweden

Avalanche, Senators to play 2 regular-season games in Sweden

The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play two games in Sweden next season, the NHL’s first regular-season games in Europe since 2011.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Friday announced their new Global Series games Nov. 10 and 11 in Stockholm. This is the NHL’s sixth trip to Europe and the seventh and eighth games played in Sweden.

Colorado’s captain is 24-year-old Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog. Ottawa’s captain is 26-year-old Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson, winner of the 2012 and 2015 Norris Trophy.

“It’s going to be fun,” Karlsson said. “It’s good for the game. It’s good for the fans over there. Especially with the time difference, they don’t really have the opportunity to stay up and watch every game.”

The teams also have Swedish heritage in some of the best players in franchise history, notably Colorado’s Peter Forsberg and Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson.

“I think that’s going to bring maybe a few more people just for that sake,” Karlsson said. “I think having Gabe there who’s also a big character in Sweden, who’s played a lot of games for the national team, people can relate to him. He’s a great guy and he’s from Stockholm, so it’s going to be a great experience to share with him.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman says with more Swedish players than ever, this is a good chance to showcase the game in the country.

Eighty-four Swedes have played in the NHL this season, roughly 9 per cent of the league. Landeskog and Karlsson are two of four Swedish-born captains, along with the Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver Canucks’ Henrik Sedin.

NHLPA executive director Don Fehr says the league and players are focused on “continued international growth,” with these games furthering that effort.

The league will make an announcement in Beijing next week, with Bettman and Chinese officials on hand. The NHL has expressed interest in playing in China, whose capital will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“We believe and I believe that China is the next great market for hockey,” Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said recently. “I’m sure one day you’ll see teams playing in China preseason games and maybe at some point games in the middle of the season. The league understands how important China is as a market, as a media market.”

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

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