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NHL sets out plans for return to Europe

The National Hockey League (NHL) has confirmed its return to Europe for the first time since 2019, with regular season and exhibition games scheduled for the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Switzerland.

The NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), in conjunction with Live Nation, have announced plans for the 2022 Global Series and 2022 Global Series Challenge, which will feature the Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Sharks and Predators will open the 2022-23 regular season against each other at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, with games on October 7 and October 8. Prior to their games in Prague, the Predators and Sharks will complete their training camps in Europe and will each play in an exhibition match as part of the Global Series Challenge.

The Predators will report to Bern, Switzerland, and play an exhibition game against SC Bern at PostFinance Arena on October 3. The Sharks will head to Berlin, Germany, and play an exhibition game against Eisbären Berlin at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 4.

The Blue Jackets and Avalanche will play in Tampere, Finland, for two regular season games at the new Nokia Arena (pictured) on November 4 and 5. These will be the first NHL regular season games held in Tampere, which hosted pre-season games in 2009 and 2010.

Prague’s events will mark the first NHL games in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres competed in Stockholm, Sweden on November 9, 2019. The Predators were due to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against Boston Bruins before COVID-19 ended these plans.

The 2022 Global Series will mark the ninth season overall that the NHL has travelled to Europe to play regular-season games. There have been 28 regular-season NHL games played in Europe. To date, there have been five NHL regular-season games played in the Czech Republic, which have all been played at the O2 Arena.

San Jose, Colorado and Columbus have all played regular-season games in Europe, while Nashville has played two regular-season games in Japan and will be making its European debut.

2026 FIFA World Cup

In other event news, Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for Washington, DC, and the Sport & Entertainment Corporation of Maryland have announced the merger of their separate efforts to make Washington, DC and Baltimore host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Under the new plan, all matches would be played at the newly renovated M&T Bank Stadium, home of NFL franchise the Baltimore Ravens, while Washington, DC would host a “flagship” FIFA Fan Festival.

FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Commanders, had been among the stadia that initially bid for games in 2017. Opened in 1997, it was among the older facilities that bid but faces an uncertain future with the Commanders targeting a new stadium, and has now been dropped as a host venue.

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, co-chair of Baltimore Maryland 2026, said: “We are pleased to merge our Baltimore, Maryland World Cup bid with Washington, DC.  The combination of our two world-class cities in the Capital Region will provide FIFA with exceptional soccer facilities for match play in Baltimore, and the grandeur of the nation’s capital for cultural activities to celebrate the World Cup in the United States.”

Max Brown, DC2026 Advisory Board co-chair, added: “We look forward to having FIFA and its delegates in DC for meetings, practices, the biggest FIFA Fan Festival, and are confident that our region will exceed expectations in delivering an innovative, powerful, and fun fan experience.”

The latest news comes after Vancouver was last week added to the list of potential host cities for the 2026 World Cup, which is to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. Seventeen US stadia in 16 areas remain in contention for games, along with three cities apiece in Canada and Mexico.

The United 2026 bid plan had envisioned a total of 16 sites for the national team football tournament. FIFA had targeted mid-May for announcing venues, but the decision has been pushed back until at least mid-June.

Image: Aleksi Stenberg/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size