Tuesday, October 4, 2011
With the kickoff of the NHL season in Europe now an annual event, this year with games in Helsinki, Finland, Stockholm, Sweden and the NHL's first trip to Berlin, Germany, it seems appropriate to feature a jersey worn during the first ever regular season games played outside of North America.
While there is a history of teams playing exhibition or pre-season games, primarily in Europe with one previous instance of games in Japan, for the games to actually count in the regular season standings was something entirely new.
Dubbed NHL Game ONe '97, the NHL season opened on October 3rd and 4th, 1997 with a pair of games held in Tokyo, Japan between the Vancouver Canucks and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
The sold out games were held in the Yoyogi Arena and were part of nearly a week's worth of events which led up to the games, designed to raise the Japanese public's awareness of hockey and increase their interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics, to be held just four months later in Nagano, Japan, which would feature the first wholesale participation of NHL players who were normally unavailable to compete in the Olympics which are held during the middle of the NHL season.
The first game took place on October 3rd, and was won by the Vancouver Canucks and their new captain Mark Messier by a score of 3-2. On a jersey related note, this was the first regular season game for the Canucks new jerseys which featured the Orca logo and their new color scheme featuring blue, which replaced their familiar black and yellow colors.
Scott Walker had the distinction of scoring the first regular season goal outside of North America to open the scoring in the first period, beating the Mighty Ducks goaltender Guy Herbert.
Anaheim evened the score on a goal by Scott Young before Vancouver tied the game on scores from Mark Messier and Pavel Bure. Shawn Antoski got the game winner at 17:22 of the second and the teams played a scoreless third. Kirk McLean got the win and made 32 saves in front of a crowed of 10,500.
Anaheim, designated the home team for the second contest, took the opportunity to debut today's featured jersey, their new white alternates.
Teemu Selanne opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first, only to be equalled by Bure at 15:37.
Tomas Sandstrom would put the Mighty Ducks back in front at 5:19 on the power play but Trevor Linden would respond with a power play goal of his own at 18:01 to tie the score at 2-2 heading into the third.
J. J. Daigneault of the Mighty Ducks would get the game winning goal at 13:38 of the third from Sandstrom and Selanne, which was Selanne's second assist of the game to give him points on all three Anaheim goals. Mikhail Shtalenkov got the win for the Mighty Ducks with 25 saves, including holding off a late Vancouver 6-on-4 advantage, as the Canucks were given a power play and then pulled their goaltender McLean for an extra skater.
The NHL would again return to Japan to open the season with a pair of games in 1998 between the Calgary Flames (who also debuted their new black alternates) and San Jose Sharks and 2000 when the Nashville Predators took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The league would not venture overseas to open the season again until 2007 for a pair of games in London. Dubbed "NHL Premiere 2007", which were the first regular season games ever held in Europe and featured the renamed Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
2008-09 began with two games in Prague in the Czech Republic, where the New York Rangers swept two from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and another pair in Stockholm which were split by the Ottawa Senators and the Penguins.
The NHL returned to Europe in 2009-10 to again play four games, two in Helsinki split by the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers and again for a pair in Stockholm where the St. Louis Blues swept the Detroit Red Wings.
The NHL Premiere concept was expanded in 2010-11 to three cities for the first time. The Carolina Hurricanes took a pair from the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, The Columbus Blue Jackets split their two games in Stockholm while future Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins spilt their series with the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague.
While three cities will once again host games to start the 2011-12 season, the format has been altered. October 7th sees the Ducks playing the Buffalo Sabres in Helsinki as the Kings and Rangers face off in Stockholm. The next day, the Kings and Sabres both travel to Berlin while the Ducks will face the awaiting Rangers in Stockholm's second game. With the addition of the Sabres this season, 19 teams will have now taken part in games outside of North America.
Today's featured jersey is a Starter 1997-98 Mighty Ducks of Anahiem alternate Teemu Selanne jersey as worn on October 4, 1997. This jersey features the NHL Game ONe '97 patch, worn by both the Mighty Ducks and Canucks for their two-game series in Tokyo, Japan to open the 1997-98 NHL season.
This was the debut for the Mighty Ducks new white home alternate, which would also be joined by a jade green version of this jersey used as a road alternate, giving them four jerseys to pick from throughout the 1997-98 season.
No chance to ever find any video of the games in Japan I'm afraid, so let's go off the board with these two commercials featuring Teemu from his native Finland for a change of pace.
Teemu says: "This is my thing. This is what I'm good at."