The Calgary Flames may be playing some games decidedly out of market in the 2018-19 season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported during Saturday night’s edition of Headlines that the Flames are one of the teams in the mix to play games in China next season. This week’s edition of 31 Thoughts slightly amended that report to “China or Europe.”
It’s unclear from Friedman’s report whether it would be preseason or regular season games played outside of North America, though the suggestion is that the National Hockey League is hoping to unveil its 2018-19 international calendar during January’s All-Star festivities in Tampa.
The NHL recently trotted out a fancy new international schedule this past season, sending Vancouver and Los Angeles to Beijing and Shanghai, China for preseason games and then Ottawa and Colorado to Stockholm, Sweden for a pair of regular season games.
The China games were mired with iffy attendance and questionable ice, but the sponsor support was apparently healthy enough that the league is trying it again.
Regular season games in Europe have been part of the NHL schedule fairly consistently since 2008-09 – originally under the “NHL Premiere” title and more recently under the “NHL Global Series” brand.
If the report is true – and it’s Friedman, so it’s probably a reasonable assumption – the trip to Asia or Europe would be on the 20th anniversary of the Flames’ last international sojourn; they began the 1998-99 season in Tokyo, Japan against San Jose. (Check out Christian Tiberi’s trek down memory lane.) They also opened their 1989-90 training camp with a two-week Friendship Tour through Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.