The NHL is “definitely” interested in a return to the United Kingdom, likely London, according to the league’s senior executive vice president of media and international strategy David Proper.
In a recent interview with 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Proper revealed that London could feature as a potential Global Series location in the future.
When asked to identify host cities on the radar of the NHL, the New York-based executive said: “I’ll give you a couple, and some of them you will be able to guess anyway. Mexico is certainly one that we have been taking a close look at.
“We have been looking at some of the hockey nations that aren’t big ones, in terms of size, like Latvia [and Slovakia]. We are definitely looking at going back to London and we have even looked at some places in the Middle East and Asia. There is a lot of interest, even in places that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”
The NHL has played in the UK fifteen times before, with the Belfast Giants hosting the Boston Bruins in October 2010.
The 2007 NHL Premiere is the latest NHL-on-NHL contest to be held in the UK, with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings playing a two-game series at the O2 Arena in London.
The 2023 Global Series is headed to Sweden and, in a first for the NHL, Australia.
“The first thing we’re looking for is whether there is an opportunity to grow hockey, the NHL, or our brand,” Proper said when asked what it takes for the NHL to consider playing overseas. “Sweden is an obvious example because there are lots of players from Sweden and we know we can sell tickets.
“We have been looking at Australia for almost a decade and it has taken us a while to get comfortable with how the opportunity could work for us. We had to talk to a lot of potential sponsors, media partners, and the people who run Ice Hockey Australia and the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation.
“We had to make ourselves comfortable that there would be a long-term growth plan if we put games there. We’re doing that at the moment with Mexico, to see if a real opportunity exists there.”
When asked to select his dream locations for future international games, Proper added: “Australia was on the list. I’m a big soccer fan and there is a big part of me that has always thought that Wembley Stadium would be a cool place to have a game – it is just such an iconic place. Old Trafford is in the conversation. I love the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. They are all incredible options.”
London’s Calling: NOW is the time for the NHL to return to the United Kingdom
With the Elite League on the rise and Team Great Britain back in the elite pool of the IIHF World Championships, now is the perfect time for the NHL to return to the United Kingdom.
While ice hockey remains a minority sport on these shores, the sport is heading in the right direction and there is a clear appetite to watch elite-level play here.
In his recent interview with Sportsnet, David Proper revealed that London and Manchester are on the NHL’s international hit list.
People will ask ‘why London?’ – especially when the capital is absent from the Elite League – but the case is clear cut for the NHL.
The Global Series almost exclusively visits capital cities or major hockey venues.
Stockholm will host the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and Minnesota Wild later this year, with Tampere’s world-class Nokia Arena providing the backdrop in 2022.
While there are a number of arena teams in the Elite League, the NHL – based on Proper’s comments – is unlikely to view them as large enough for the Global Series.
Consequentially, London’s O2 Arena is the probable destination
Rejoice, regardless – hockey is coming home.