Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

NHL confirms Flames will play two preseason games in China

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.

  • deantheraven

    I’m trying to imagine a time when the NHL presents a plan to “grow the game” somewhere where the natives have an inkling about how the game is played. Maybe they see China like the way we saw California before Gretzky went to LA.
    Wishful thinking.

        • piscera.infada

          I mean, if you really want to split hairs, sure–although it depends on how you measure it. Regardless though, it’s a massive economy and there’s tremendous untapped growth. It’s not debatable that the NHL trying to establish some sort of market there is a smart move.

          I’m also not talking about a franchise. TV rights and marketing. You know, the things that fundamentally make the league viable?

          • Stu Gotz

            Globalization of the NHL will have it’s challenges and for sure rewards. New expansion fees such as what we have seen wth Vegas and soon Seattle are the motivator for the owners. Good on them if expansion is successful as they are taking the risk. I would like to see the issues within North America resolved first before shifting the focus to global expansion.

  • Jobu

    At minimum having a unique bonding experience like this as a team would hopefully solidify some unity in the locker room for the season to come. Red and yellow IS the countries colours. I hope they sell a bunch of Foo jerseys!

    • supra steve

      Rumor had it that Arizona rejected the offer of the Auston Mattews (who is from Arizona) pick for OEM (Ekman-Larsson), so I take that as a pretty good indication of what a young top D-man is worth. Hamilton is a top young D-man.

      • Jobu

        OEM was an ok offensive defenseman… Matthews was a surefire 10-alarm superstar before he ever played a game. Hard to believe that rumor.
        But yes. D-Ham > 3rd overall this year

        • Baalzamon

          Ekman Larsson is one of the better two-way defensemen in the league. Though I expect they turned the offer down more because the instant they traded OEL they’d be looking to replace him (like the Flames would with Hamilton really, though worse) with… well, him.

          Basically it would be one step forward, two back.

        • supra steve

          McDavid was/is a 10-alarm, Matthews was a likely star, but to what degree…no one really knew.
          We thought Bennett was a slam dunk when he was selected.

          • cjc

            The hype around Bennett was only because he happened to be in the conversation for first overall – but there were four players that draft that could have gone first. That is a sign that it was a shallow draft, and it has proven since. The only player from those four to really break so far is Draisaitl, and that’s partly because he rides McDavid’s coattails. Matthews was (and is) clearly going to be an elite player for years to come, I don’t think the same could be said for the 2014 draft class.

      • Mickey O

        It was likely wanting to flip the 7th pick from Arizona (who took Clayton Keller) for the 1st pick. For the Leafs to do that OEL had to be involved, and Arizona said no thanks. Wouldn’t have made that trade either.

        Side note…the 2016 draft is already looking extremely strong. Some very talented youngsters already playing great, and more on the way.

  • SydScout

    Need to throw this one out to any FN readers in the Asia Pacific (or those YYC inhabitants keen to go) – anyone considering going? I might head up there from down under. Rare chance to see hockey and my beloved Flames in a similar timezone

  • RKD

    One on hand it is pretty cool for the players and the Flames to get that exposure the only worry is how the travel jet lag would mess up their routine before the start of the season with a new coach.

  • Off the wall

    I hope there’s better promotion for the games. Seems like the Canucks/ Kings didn’t draw the attendance expected.

    When Esposito blasts the media, you know he had good reasons to..

  • freethe flames

    Completely off this topic but I just wanted to talk about how fragile this team has become. How much has this team changed since the 2014/15 Find a way Flames; that battled almost every night and thought they could come back from anything. Coaching from Hartley who rubbed some of his players the wrong way to GG who seldom seemed engaged. To players believing better than they are to a loss of misfit battlers[ I said it when Byron was waived that he was a glue guy). The talent has gotten better but something is missing. 4 years ago the core of this team was resilenet but now they are not. Some of the key guys need to have a long look at themselves in the mirror and find the player who played in 14/15.

    • oilcanboyd

      Good coaching will change that….team lacks an identity they had under Hartley – work hard for 60 minutes each and every game….GG couldn’t communicate one-on-one with the players…his ‘system’ was a passive game.

    • piscera.infada

      A lot of that is narrative. I’ll bring this up again, but before I do, I want to make clear: I am not saying the Flames are the Jets.

      The last couple seasons, everyone talked about how talented the Jets were. They got swept by the Ducks in the first round (oddly kind of similarly to the Flames last year–but I digress). Then, they missed the playoffs for two straight years. Many fans and the media were saying things like “despite the talent, this team can’t win, they don’t have that ‘winning mentality'” (whatever that means…). This extended to players like Wheeler, Schiefele, Ehlers, et cetera. Now, all fans and the media can talk about is how amazing the Jets are, and how that entire team is “full of winners” with “killer instinct”.

      Now, I’m not saying everything is rosey in Flamesland. The point is these argument about how “fragile” this team is are likely a product of people being too close–or too emotionally invested–in the past 82 games we all just saw. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, that’s the funny thing about narratives–they’re usually just trite, overused generalizations to explain things that don’t make a ton of sense. They’re also likely to be wrong most of the time. This is the same thing I warned against the last few offseasons when people were spouting off about the “best D in the league”.

      None of that is to say the Flames as a team didn’t just have a rough season where they appeared fragile. I would agree they do. It doesn’t however, make sense to change your organizational philosophy based on a narrative that the team is lacking some unquantifiable trait. How many “winners” do they need? Who are these guys with “killer instinct”? Conversely, who are these guys that “can’t win”?

      All those questions come precariously close to the Brouwer-signing (Lucic-signing, et cetera) rationale, no?

  • Willi P

    Poor little millionaire muffins can make a trip to China to play a few games and get back. Time change sucks but this schedule is pretty easy for them to get back into training camp upon return.

    I take multiple trips to SE Asia per year (way longer than China), have to perform the day I land and the day I get back, no millions+ contract and no guarantee of a job if I don’t perform. Biz class charter and a built in excuse. Suck it up Flames players and management. Businessmen do it all of the time, lucky to make six figures, you will have weeks to adapt unlike us working folk.

      • freethe flames

        Listening to BT discuss the trip did not sound like a ringing endorsement. “Being good league citizens” did not sound to me like something he volunteered to do.

        • piscera.infada

          Sure. They’d probably rather be at home for the entirety of training camp and preseason. That’s a far cry from “poor little millionaire muffins […] taking weeks to adapt”.

          • Willi P

            I was referring to the BT interview with Kerr, not to anybody on here. I didn’t make that very clear, my bad.

            In the interview, to me, Brad (on behalf of the team) comes off as hard done by having to make this trip and explains several times how hard it is going to be and how much planning it is going to take. In this case, he goes way over the top in my opinion.

          • Burnward

            A week in China will bond these boys more than anything. When you only have each other in a culture you don’t understand, a language that is beyond foreign and signs that are impossible to read you kind of need each other.

        • WillyWonka

          there is no question that a trip like this puts a team at a disadvantage to start the season… Brad is 100% correct… it is about being a “good league citizen” like he said. in my opinion, the league is giving the Flames a rough ride because of the arena deal. I also expect the league officiating to continue to punish the Flames for the Wideman fiasco… how can the team get a fair shake when “one of it’s own” was, in their opinion, hard done by?

    • WillyWonka

      are you competing as an elite athlete in an event against the best in the world? thought not… poor commoners that complain about millionaires because they such it up and travel and “work” without whining… no comparison

      • piscera.infada

        That’s not entirely fair either. The best and brightest in our society do countless trips like this with little to no turn around–the point I think the poster was making. This type of trip is not ideal, but you make the best of it. They shouldn’t be complaining, nor are they. As Treliving said: “good league citizen”.

        • SydScout

          Great to see you back around these parts piscera. I take that trip regularly, and an far from the best and brightest! But while it’s hard, it could be worse. The bruins will do it much harder I would think. That extra step across most of NA will be more of a struggle. The Flames should adapt a little quicker.

          A couple of thoughts, with the most beneign first. Maybe they should play a matinee very early in the season. Think first week. If there are jet lag issues, this would help. Second, BT is doing his job making obvious that he’s being a good citizen yet clearly being none too happy about it. The league knows this sucks for team preparing for the regular season. He’s going to use this as leverage in future negotiations and by coming out and being too cheerful this would weaken that position. There’s a chance that they agreed to get the nhl off their backs following the Wideman situation and curb any impact of the ongoing stadium rift. Short term pain, long term gain (at least I hope that’s somewhat true – evethone keeps saying ‘it’s a business ‘)