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Report: Flames may play games in China or Europe in 2018-19

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.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Habs, Sens, Caps, Canes, Panthers also paint the town red, but only one club calls itself the Maple Leafs and that name resonates Canada to the Chinese more than red.

      Besides, the NHL won’t lose an opportunity to create special Chinese-themed jerseys for the clubs that go there. The flaming C becomes a dragon. The Florida Panthers replace the panther with a tiger. It’s a natural. Best of all, the special jerseys will be in stores for Christmas 2018, so you can plunk down $300 to shut your fat-assed brat up for a few hours.

  • StarIV

    Friedman continued with this:

    13. I do think Ottawa’s post-Sweden results have made a few teams nervous about participating. Whether or not you believe in cause-and-effect in this case, GMs are a superstitious lot.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Unless the NHLPA digs in its heels, the Bettman gang will do all within its power to ship clubs to China every year leading up to the 2022 Beijing Blood Olympics. Bettman understands bucks and this is all about bucks.

      Don’t buy the fool’s line that says the west coast clubs and Cal and Edm are natural geographic choices to play games in China because it totally disregards the enormous amount of travel those clubs normally do during a regular league schedule. The additional travel to China is unwanted, unneeded and unwarranted.

      There are those much smarter than I am who still maintain that the Flames Euro vacation in September 1989 was the main reason the club did not come even close to repeating as champs.

  • McRib

    China doesn’t give a damn about Hockey the NHL must stop pretending differently. Apparently the China games this year were half empty and most of the fans that were in attendance were given free tickets or even paid to be there.

    The craziest thing about all of this is Korea already has a long established professional league and they have even sent players to the USHL in recent years, which shows the caliber of Hockey that players are playing locally in Korea, but because of that amazing communist money the NHL has set its sights on the China Olympics instead of Korea the more passionate Hockey fans. The Chinese could give a damn about Hockey, I know a couple of people trying to grow Hockey in China and it’s still in its absolute infancy where most people outside of ex-patriots have no clue about the game or care to know anything about it.

    Just the weasel Bettman taking a game or two away from a Canadian market and bringing it to China where no one could care about the game. Coincidence that it comes as we’re looking for a new arena, maybe the NHL can be half decent and give our ownership the money it wants towards a new arena because they ain’t getting public money here or anywhere in the USA anymore without giving up some of the revenues (the NFL did this for Minnesota because they agreed to go to London), though I won’t hold my breath. Someday the NHL is going to greatly regret taking advantage of loyal Canadian fans time-and-time again.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Very well said! It is just a Bettman cash grab.

      Everything about hockey goes totally against Chinese thinking. The cost of equipment and ice time means that it is really just a sport for the elite to play. That is not going to appeal to the masses. In contrast, consider how it costs to play soccer or basketball in China.

    • Seattle_Flames

      Shanghai Flames would be perfect. I can tell you one thing about China, they don’t sit around on their asses for years and years wasting time. If the Flames were in a city like Shanghai, CalgaryNEXT would’ve been built 4 years ago.