The NHL just canceled the International series games for the 20-21 season and the AHL confirmed today that the 19-20 season is officially canceled.
It doesn’t look, therefore, like we’ll be traveling to foreign games any time soon.
Despite the fact that the season (and international travel) is on hold, the Stars have indicated an interest in playing an international game in the past.
At some undetermined point in the future, when players and fans are free to travel again where could such an international game be held?
Mexico City would be an obvious choice given the Stars play in Texas, a state with close historic links to Mexico and a Hispanic population of more than 10 million. The Stars have publicly stated an interest in playing a game in Mexico and were slated to hold their first ”Noches Mexicana” this year as part of an initiative to better engage with Mexican-Americans. Mexico City is relatively nearby (closer than many NHL cities), has strong transport links with Dallas, and is a teeming metropolis of more than 20 million people – the largest city in North America.
The Mexico City Arena is a modern 22,000 seater multipurpose arena which seems like it would be an excellent option to host a hockey game. It seems more likely than not that the Stars will play there at some point in the near future.
The Stars have had more Finns play for them than any other team in the national hockey league. Last season alone 3 Finns had permanent roster spots (Lindell, Heiskanen, Hintz), 2 more played in the AHL (Kiviranta – who also spent time in Dallas, and Palve) and the Stars still held the rights to Julius Honka who is playing back in Finland.
A game in Finland would seem to be an obvious choice, given that much of the foundation of the Stars team for the next few years is Finnish. Hockey is already the most popular sport in Finland and the majority of the country tuned into to watch the nation lift the World Cup. The infrastructure is already in place; the Hartwall arena (home to Jokerit of the KHL) has hosted the World Cup, the World Junior Cup, and NHL games in the past and there is a ready-made fanbase. A game in beautiful and historic Helsinki would do much to cement the relationship between the Stars and the nation of Finland.
The Stars already have a development deal with a team in China and had been rumored to be a candidate to play games in China next season, prior to the cancellation of all international events. Although the fit between hockey and China would seem to be a strange one, it’s obvious that the NHL would want to grow its brand in the most populous and wealthy nation on Earth.
The NBA and the EPL, in particular, have marketed themselves extremely successfully in China and the NHL clearly believes that they can follow in their footsteps. Beijing, Shanghai, and even Guangzhou and Shenzhen all have modern arenas that either have already hosted NHL or KHL games or would be appropriate for doing so in the future. Being able to build its brand in China would be a lucrative move for the Dallas Stars.
This is a bit of a wildcard, but since I have close family ties to the city-state I’m going to run with it. Singapore is a densely populated island nation of around 6 million people at the southern end of the Malay peninsula. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s one of the richest and most modern cities in the world.
It’s the largest transport hub in south-east Asia with cheap low-cost flights to other major regional cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Manila as well as intercontinental destinations. It has outstanding public transportation, is impeccably clean, and has multiple options for hosting such an event.
Personally, it would be a dream to see an outdoor game on the world’s largest floating stage at Marina Bay. The tropical climate of a state only 1 degree north of the equator may preclude such an event but stranger and more spectacular sights have happened in Lion City.
Any game in Singapore would be an opportunity to connect with a brand new fanbase in a part of the world where the EPL is by far the most popular league.
Featured Images: - Gardens by the Bay - G.J. McCARTHY/Staff Photographer DMN