The New Jersey Devils will be playing internationally next season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today in his All-Star Weekend press conference that the team will be joining the Edmonton Oilers in opening their 2018-19 season overseas.
The Devils will play a preseason game in Switzerland – native country of last year’s number one overall draft pick Nico Hischier – presumably against local competition. According to the NHL’s website, “the cities and dates for the preseason games have yet to be finalized.”
The Devils will then open their 2018-19 regular season against the Edmonton Oilers in Stockholm, Sweden. The Oilers will play a preseason warmup in Germany (home of their center, Leon Draisaitl) while the Devils are in Switzerland.
This is part of the larger initiative of the Global Series. It will also include the Florida Panthers playing the Winnipeg Jets in two regular season games in Finland. Florida features Aleksander Barkov and Winnipeg has Patrik Laine, both of whom are from Finland.
For the 2017-18 season, the Ottawa Senators had played the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL Global Series games, also played in Stockholm.
In addition, the NHL will be returning to China to play preseason games. This past preseason, the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings played a pair of preseason games in China – one in Beijing and one in Shanghai. Teams and cities for next year’s NHL China Games have not been finalized yet.
Bettman said at his press conference that “we are extremely pleased with the continuity of our international visits. You cannot develop an international strategy or establish presence without these events.”
This is great news for the Devils. First off, it exposes their brand internationally. For a team that is barely shown on national TV here in the US, this is great to see the Devils finally included in something like this. Second, on a more practical note, these games are not being played mid-season like the Ottawa-Colorado games. Since they are in the beginning of the year and the teams will be playing preseason games in Europe, they should be acclimated for the games when they count. The only problem is when they get back to North America, how will they acclimate back to that? All of those questions are to be answered, for now, it is just nice to see the Devils getting something like this for once.