The NHL has played preseason games in China over the past few years, a trend that has continued into 2018. The Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins played their first of two preseason games in China at Universiade Sports Center in Shenzhen on Saturday, with another contest set for Cadillac Arena in Beijing on Wednesday.
Preseason games in China have been part of the league’s interest in growing its presence in the country, so the NHL may look to expand its reach in the future by scheduling regular-season games there. In comments made prior to Saturday’s game, Bettman noted some of the considerations that would have to be made, but suggested that regular-season games in China could be on the league’s radar down the road. More from NHL.com:
“It’s obviously easier to deal with the travel issues by scheduling in the preseason and giving the participating teams a little bit of a head start, which is what we’ve been able to do,” Commissioner Bettman said. “I think that at some point we will get to the stage where we will be considering regular-season games. Although we haven’t had the full discussions that we have to have internally and with the players, but I think if it’s going to happen it will probably be at the beginning of the season so that we can start things out and get the players back to play their schedule.”
Commissioner Bettman also said the NHL is in preliminary discussions with its business partners here — Bloomage International Investment Group and O.R.G. Packaging — to return to China next year for preseason games.
Certainly, the NHL is working to put more momentum behind its annual preseason slate in China. It seems conceivable that that eventually expands into playing regular-season games in China, a move that would not only bolster the NHL’s marketing efforts in the country but give it a broader presence outside of North America.