I have an idea for the next station sponsored Buffalo Sabres road trip. Europe anyone? Not to take anything away from the excursions to Columbus and Long Island but come on, we’re talking Europe here and my international travel resume starts and stops at Canada. The Sabres are 1 of 6 teams preliminarily selected by the NHL to open next season with a couple of games in Europe and count me in both literally and figuratively.
Okay I probably won’t be able to go but I like the idea of the team going anyway. I was initially worried about the whole idea of all of that travel to start the season and how it might impact a team during the month of Ocotber but after doing some research, I don’t think you can draw any clear conclusions.
The NHL has sent 16 different teams to open the season in Europe over 4 seasons starting with Los Angeles and Anaheim playing in London in 2007. In 2008, Ottawa and Pittsburgh met in Sweden while the Czech Republic played host to the Rangers and Tampa. 2009 saw Detroit and St. Louis sent to Sweden with Chicago and Florida traveling to Finland. This season the league dispatched 6 clubs overseas sending Carolina and Minnesota to Finland, Columbus and San Jose to Sweden and Boston and Phoenix went to the Czech Republic. Those clubs also played pre-season games in other European cities leading up to the season opening 2 game neutral ice affairs.
As far as the impact on the first month of the season, it’s a split. Of the 16 teams that have begun their season in Europe, 8 had a winning record the rest of October, 8 had losing records. For those of you who think the opening month plays a major role in determining how your season turns out and you’d be worried about jet lag and a slow start, again it’s a split. Going back over the last 3 seasons, 5 of the 10 teams involved in the European series made the playoffs and 5 missed. 2 of those 5 teams went on to win the Stanley Cup, Pittsburgh in 2009 and Chicago last season.
I do have 1 request for the NHL if they are going to tap the Sabres for this series. Don’t do to them what you did to Carolina this season. The Hurricanes played Minnesota in Helsinki and came back to North America with a 5 game road trip, starting in Ottawa and then going out West.