NHL’s series in London big success

Associated
Press

The NHL’s
season-opening series in
London proved to be
quite a success, and more trips to
Europe are
expected.

The
Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings split a pair of
games at the O2 Arena over the weekend in the first regular-season NHL games to
be played in
Europe.

“The
fans were cheering. The tube was packed,” NHL senior vice president Ken Yaffe
said Monday. “It was like a playoff-championship game atmosphere.”

Fans from

Britain, some
wearing shirts bearing the emblems of Elite Ice Hockey League teams Manchester
Phoenix and Belfast Giants, mixed with other Europeans, Canadians and Americans
who made the trip to fill the O2 to capacity. The Kings won the first game 4-1,
and the Ducks won the second by the same score.

But the
outcome meant little to many of the local fans who came to see a pair of hockey
games in a country obsessed with soccer.

“I
know what our value is in many European countries,” Yaffe said. “I
had little sense of it in the

UK.”

Yaffe said
the main criticism he heard about the weekend was the lack of coverage in the
local media. Despite reporters from a variety of news organizations in the
United States and
Canada,
many of

London’s
newspapers wrote hardly a word.

“We
didn’t expect that we would be sitting atop the rugby World Cup,” said
Yaffe, referring to the tournament currently going on in

France.
“We don’t have any misconceptions about where we are in the sports
landscape.”

But even
if hockey is relegated to an also-ran in the British press, there are plenty of
other places in
Europe that would love to see
an NHL game come to town.

Prague would be a natural
place for us to go,” said Yaffe, adding the NHL had made no commitments
yet. “We’re looking at it. We’d love to play there.”

And there
could more trips after that, especially with about 33 percent of the players in
the NHL from
Europe.

“We’d
love to play in the Nordics. We’d love to play in

Germany,” Yaffe added.
“We’re talking to NHL teams to see who’s interested.”

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