As this is the NHL All-Star Game weekend, the league took the time to make an announcement for next season. The NHL has announced a significant continuation to their NHL Global Series of games: regular season games. And the New Jersey Devils are involved. According to this post at the league’s official website, the Devils and the Edmonton Oilers will open their 2018-19 seasons in Stockholm, Sweden. Additionally, there will be a Devils preseason game in Switzerland. There will be preseason games in China, an Edmonton preseason game in Germany, and two regular season games in Finland at some point in 2018-19 between Florida and Winnipeg.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet was among the first to report the news on Twitter. He clarified that this Devils-Oilers game in Sweden would be a home game for New Jersey. That’s an important clarification for my fellow season ticket holders and future season ticket holders. That price will be for 40 and not 41 home games.
Since I’m one of the last to write about it, allow me to share three feelings about this news.
The first feeling is that this is a surprise. Of all of the teams to select for a season opening matchup in Stockholm, the league decided on New Jersey and Edmonton. I’m still kind of processing that. Sure, Edmonton has Connor McDavid. Both teams do have Swedish players in Marcus Johansson, Jesper Bratt, Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefbom. Yet, is this really the ideal matchup for the league to present in Sweden? Those four Swedish players may serve roles of varying importance on their respective teams, but by no means are they stars. There are other teams with more Swedish players and bigger stars. Like Washington, where center Nicklas Backstrom has been a crucial part of their success in their Ovechkin area. Like Dallas, who has John Klingberg racking up assists. Or Tampa Bay, whose blueline is led by Viktor Hedman. Nashville has Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson to ignite passions. If the league wants some older names, the Sedins are still on Vancouver and the Rangers are still carried by Henrik Lundqvist. Furthermore, Edmonton and New Jersey aren’t likely going to be great teams in 2018-19. I hope New Jersey is on their way up; improving as they re-build from whatever step they’re in now. Edmonton may have McDavid but they appear to remind everyone why they’re veterans of the NHL Draft Lottery. Surely, there’s a more alluring matchup that could have been given to Stockholm. So I’m still confused that this has been put together.
The second feeling is annoyance. I’m a full season ticket holder. I intend to be one for next season. I’m losing a home game out of this deal. Yet, I would not be surprised the upcoming invoice for 2018-19 does not take that into account. Who knows what the 2018-19 Devils will behold, but at a minimum, I get to wait for a real home opener at the Rock. While the Devils will have the last line change in Stockholm, they won’t have the support they could have in Newark, New Jersey. Given the opponent, the Rock would be a majority Devils crowd. That may not be the case in Sweden. The Devils will also have to endure additional travel that they would ordinarily not have. And since it is a Devils home game, New Jersey will still get to put the miles on to go to Edmonton at some point in 2018-19. On top of that, I and many others won’t see McDavid live in New Jersey next season. Then again, seeing McDavid possibly dominate in a game against my favorite team isn’t something I would mind not seeing. (I’d rather him not dominate but, you know, it’s Connor McDavid.)
The third feeling is positive. No, the matchup does not make the most sense. Yes, it stinks the Devils effectively lose a home game in 2018-19. But there’s a reason to feel some additional pride in the team. The NHL could have chosen any other team to represent the league in a place where they have not done so. They could have chosen some other time for the Devils to play a meaningful game outside of North America. They wanted the Devils of all teams. And they wanted them at the start of the next season. The league made a big choice and picked the Devils. That’s a big deal and should be seen as such. Hopefully, the Devils do not let them down.
That’s what I think about the Stockholm game. I’m admittedly more excited for the preseason game in Switzerland. The game doesn’t count so it’s OK if it’s far, far away from New Jersey. The Devils drafted the first Swiss player overall, Nico Hischier, and that’s a big deal. He should be given a spotlight in Switzerland whenever possible. It wasn’t an accident that the Devils home opener was moved up to 2 PM ET, which made it more favorable for viewers in Switzerland. Providing an opportunity to see Hischier live is a good decision.
What do you think of the Devils playing Edmonton in Stockholm to open next season? What about the preseason game in Switzerland? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this news in the comments. Thank you for reading.