Canucks and Kings fail to make an impact in a new market
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
The NHL found itself disappointing fans early this September—before the season even started—and not even on the North American continent.
In a unique move by the league, they’ve agreed to play six games over the course of eight years in China, attempting to break into a new and unfamiliar market. The first game, between the Vancouver Canucks and the LA Kings, drew just over 10,000 spectators, which is measly for a North American game but impressive for a country that only tangentially participates in the KHL, Asia’s largest hockey league. Despite the relatively good numbers, the NHL ended up facing criticism for an uninteresting match fraught with minor infractions and slow play, and a severe lack of advertising for the game.
The league and China have been eyeing each other for a while, both making tentative steps into each other’s realms. The NHL aims to broaden its horizons to an untapped market, hoping to have at least affiliated league branches in competition with the KHL and to help encourage players to join in for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, held in China. The attempt to drum up enthusiasm for the sport both internationally and within the NHL itself received criticism mostly from within the league itself, and players and league members were disappointed with the audience and the game.
The NHL has been coming down hard on stick fouls, and it showed in the last season. If this game is any sign, it won’t get any better when hockey starts this year. The Canucks head coach, Travis Green said: “The flow of the game isn’t what it normally is,” and the crowd seemed to agree. By the end of the game, after a full 17 power plays between both teams, and a 5-2 win for Los Angeles, much of the audience had left. The game also received little or no attention in the local press. Hopefully, the NHL will change their approach to international games in the future (currently no NHL players are allowed to go to the 2018 Olympics in Seoul, and the upcoming 2017-2018 season will not be accommodating it)—otherwise they’ll never break into Asia.