NHL to open in Europe again

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

NEW YORK -- The NHL will continue its recent trend of playing season-openers in Europe, announcing Monday that four teams will play in three cities to start the 2011-12 campaign.

Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers will kick off the campaign, each playing two games.

The Ducks and Sabres will play Friday, October 7 in Helsinki, Finland, while the Kings and Rangers will square off the same day in Stockholm, Sweden. The Rangers and Ducks will meet Saturday, October 8 in Stockholm, while the Sabres and Kings will battle on the same day in Berlin.

It will mark the fifth consecutive year that NHL teams will travel overseas to begin the season, but with a new format. Previously, teams played each other twice in the same venue.

"With a new format that varies each team's opponents; with the participation of the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers, and with the debut of Berlin's 02 World Arena as a regular-season NHL venue, these games will play a significant role in launching our 2011-12 campaign," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the league's statement.

The Kings and Ducks opened the 2007-08 campaign with a pair of games in London. The Rangers were part of the European openers in 2008-09, while Buffalo will take part for the first time.

"We want to grow the NHL game around the world, and the Compuware NHL Premiere games are an important part of that effort," NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said in the joint statement. "We are excited to continue to bring NHL hockey to European fans in their home markets where they can watch players from their home countries play with and against the best in the world. These will be memorable games."

Anaheim has three Finnish players -- Saku Koivu, Jarkko Ruutu and Toni Lydman -- on the roster, with Teemu Selanne not yet committed to another year. Buffalo boasts German-born Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek, who hails from bordering Austria. Berlin is also less than 600 miles from the hometown of Kings star Anze Kopitar, the only Slovenian-born player in league history.


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