Ice Hockey in the UK is on the rise. Thousands are spectators are turning up every single match to watch their beloved teams. The Sheffield Steelers are one of the most successful teams in the Elite Ice Hockey League, and their fans are as passionate as they come. The noise can be deafening at times. The atmosphere is carnival-like, it’s great.
This never used to be the case. Nowadays, when you look at the live audiences in different sports, Ice Hockey is the most watched indoor sport in the UK. It’s also the third most popular winter sports according to the Elite Ice Hockey League. The rise in popularity has raised a big question. How long will it be until the NHL Global Series returns to the UK?
NHL Global Series – The History
It all began in London in 2007. It was called NHL Premiere back then, and they branched out into Europe for the very first time. Two games were played in Salzburg, Austria, and two games were played in London, England.
How many times have the NHL been back to the UK since then? None. Zero. Nada. Actually, that’s a lie. The Boston Bruins played Belfast Giants Selects back in 2010 in Northern Ireland.
There’s been no NHL regular season match since 2007, though.
NHL Premiere continued until 2011, with NHL teams such as the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, and the Buffalo Sabres all having their opening regular season matches in Europe. Finland, Sweden and Germany were the benefactors of a decent NHL game that year.
Then NHL games overseas stopped. It wasn’t until 2017 when the NHL returned to Europe with what is now known as the NHL Global Series. Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and Finland were graced with the NHL’s presence in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, it looks like Prague might get a chance to host some NHL action, but the UK is still nowhere to be seen.
NHL Global Series in the UK – The Future
British Ice Hockey is at an all-time high with fans at the moment, and it’s only going to get bigger and better with attendances rising all the time, thus leading to more money being pumped into the sport.
NFL and NBA games are played in London on a yearly basis nowadays, so why can’t NHL games follow suit? Well, the big issue, in reality, with this proposition, is the size of the stadia. They’re simply not big enough at the moment to cope with the demand of, say, the Tampa Bay Lightning coming over here to play the Detroit Red Wings. That really leaves just one option – the O2 in London. This wouldn’t be ideal with fans in the north, but it can hold 20,000 spectators, and other top sports have been held there.
It’s worth mentioning here that the Tampa Bay Lightning are in fact the bookies favourites to win the Stanley Cup in 2019. They’ve not won it since 2004, though! So if you like a flutter on the Ice Hockey, it might be worth looking elsewhere for better value. San Jose Sharks maybe, who are best price with bet365 at 10/1. Whoever you fancy backing, it’s certainly worth saving money with a bet365 bonus code before you bet any of your own cash.
What about NHL Outdoors?
A very appealing option. Why not host an NHL game at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester for example? See how it does. It’d sell out over here without a doubt. Hampden Park in Glasgow, the London Stadium, Villa Park. The possibilities are endless. It could work commercially and would help promote Ice Hockey in the UK to the next degree. It’s such a popular sport, but it’s so under-promoted it’s laughable. The exposure would be great.
It works in the NFL. It works in the NBA. It would work in the NHL. It certainly needs to be tested again over here at least. Who wouldn’t want to see the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Pittsburgh Penguins in London or Manchester? Or even an NHL side against a top side in the UK like the Cardiff Devils to test out the popularity like they did back in 2010? Watch this space.