It’s been rumoured for some time, but now, it’s official: during the 2018 preseason, the Flames will be heading overseas to China to face off against the Bruins for two games.
The games will take place on Sept. 15 and Sept. 19, with the Flames hosting the first game, and the Bruins the second.
Traditionally, the Flames have opened their preseason with split-squad games against the Oilers in late September. This overseas initiative looks like it will disrupt that, as in 2017, the Flames kicked off their preseason on Sept. 18; their split squad games were even later in 2016, when their preseason started on Sept. 26.
Sept. 15 will be the earliest the Flames have started their preseason since the 2013-14 season, when the Flames’ first preseason games – again, a split squad contest against the Oilers – were on Sept. 14.
This could see a unique training camp for the Flames (other than the part where, you know, they go to China). A veteran-heavy group should be expected to go – after all, they’re going overseas to promote the game, so they’ll want to showcase their best possible talent – meaning the Flames’ top players may have to be ready to get back into action a little sooner rather than later. Sean Monahan is quoted in the Flames’ release, implying he may be one of the Flames to head overseas, health permitting in all likelihood.
It’s worth noting the earlier dates may, perhaps, be by design. The NHL had the Canucks and Kings play two preseason games in China in 2017; their game dates were Sept. 21 and Sept. 23. The NHL has moved up the dates and spaced out the games with considerably more time, which may be of benefit to the Flames players when returning from overseas; after all, you don’t want anybody suffering from jet lag when the meaningful games start.
The Flames have played seven preseason games in recent seasons, split squad games included. There’s no word yet on the remaining preseason schedule, but if the pattern repeats, we can likely expect another five games to be added to the calendar at a later date – and maybe giving fans at home a closer look at some of the prospects hoping to make the team.