Getting to cover the games in Stockholm was a real treat. I have travelled in Europe a few times, but never to Sweden, and getting a chance to walk around and explore Stockholm was a great experience. It truly is an incredibly clean and beautiful city.
Internal clock adjustments
After travelling over 12 hours to get there and then getting used to the time change and the different surroundings there was definitely an adjustment period. It took us a couple of days to try to get your internal clock in order before you felt half-normal, and even then, you still didn’t feel quite right.
The teams travelled a week before the game, giving them a longer opportunity to get their systems adjusted, but still it had to be a difficult challenge for the players to keep up their level of energy and fitness to prepare for the season opener. To their credit, the players all seemed to feel that the experience of being there and seeing the different culture outweighed the adjustment their bodies had to make.
When Saturday came along and the teams prepared for their first games of the season, nothing about the regular NHL game day routine was the same. Different building, different dressing rooms, different ice, different start time, different languages …you get the picture.
Each point counts
It seemed like everything surrounding the game made it feel like an exhibition game. Everything that is, except for the two points in the standings that were up for grabs. With the league so competitive and a trip to the post-season so important, there is not much room for error. Losing game 1 or 2 is just as costly as losing game 81 or 82 if a spot in the post-season is on the line. The coaches made that point abundantly clear and the players responded.
Once the puck dropped the game on the ice was very much an NHL game. It didn’t matter that it was thousands of kilometres away from Ottawa, the Sens were the home team, and the fans in the stands were able to cheer for their captain, Daniel Alfredsson, the only Swede on either club.
In all, the NHL should be happy with the impact that the games had last weekend. To bring the game halfway across the world and showcase the players to new fans in new countries is something that the league needs to continue.
One thing is for sure; the experiment of starting the season is one that the NHL should continue to grow.
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