For the first time since they were known as the Blueshirts in 1906, the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first games overseas as part of the NHL Global Series, Detroit Red Wings today and the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
This year, the Maple Leafs were invited to head out to Stockholm to participate in two games that count in the standings. The NHL has been sending teams outside of North America to play preseason and official games to grow the sport since 1997.
Although sending teams to different countries to grow the game of hockey sounds like a great idea, I feel this is not the case and should only be continued in preseason for the future.
As a sports fan, I have been able to see many teams in the past struggle during long road trips which most likely affected the team in the standings and once coming home, needed time to adjust back to their normal play.
In the NHL, teams will never be able to hide from a long road trip, however, eliminating the NHL’s Global Series during the season would be positive as they would not have to worry about leaving North America to play elsewhere and all the negatives that come with it.
Playing regular season games overseas could affect a team’s drive. For example, the Maple Leafs appear to be on a bit of a roll, defeating Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, before the flight overseas. But suddenly they have to gear down to play two games within two weeks. That could effectively stop any momentum.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I am against the NHL’s Global Series as the teams involved such as the Maple Leafs are at a disadvantage as any momentum before the trip will likely be gone because of the inconsistent amount of games played.
The amount of games could also affect the teams in the standings as many other teams will be able to catch up or pass in games.
Although there are many off-ice negatives to these games. On-ice is also a problem.
All players will need to be acclimated to the European-style ice rinks which are four meters wider than rinks used in the NHL which could lead to many problems for the players such as timing, angles and much more.
When coming back from the trip, players will then have to adjust back to their normal rink size which could take time leading to possible bad player performances.
From the point of view of North American viewers, many of the games are also on at odd times such as the Maple Leafs playing on a Friday at 2 p.m. EST and Sunday at 8 a.m. EST.
As a Leafs fan who tries to watch every game, unfortunately, these games will have to be recorded and watched at later times.
The NHL is always trying to grow the sport that many love by showcasing games in other countries but there are ways to achieve this without having so much on the line.
I believe the NHL should continue the Global Series only during the preseason as this would would still be able to showcase the game overseas, but not during an 82-game season fighting for playoffs where every game matters.
I have always wanted the game of hockey to grow around the world but hopefully, the NHL can find smarter ways to accomplish this in the future.