NHL returning to Europe with games in Prague, Tampere

Associated Press

New York — The NHL is going back to Europe this fall for its first games outside of North America since the start of the pandemic.

The league on Thursday announced the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators will play two games in Prague in October and the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets will play two games in Tampere, Finland, in November as part of the 2022 Global Series.

The Nashville Predators will be one of four NHL teams to take part in the 2022 Global Series.

The Sharks and Predators will finish their respective training camps in Europe. San Jose also will play an exhibition game in Bern, Switzerland, against the Swiss league’s SC Bern, while Nashville will go to Berlin to face Eisbären Berlin of Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

Their first of two games at Prague’s O2 Arena Oct. 7 and 8 will mark the first NHL game in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres faced off in Stockholm on Nov. 9, 2019. Chicago and Philadelphia were the last NHL teams to play in Prague in October 2019.

Nashville was set to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against Boston before the pandemic scrapped the NHL’s plans. This will be the franchise’s European debut after playing two games in Saitama, Japan, in 2000.

The Sharks were a natural pick because of Czech star Tomas Hertl, who recently signed a $65.1 million, eight-year contract to remain in San Jose. Hertl is a native of Prague.

Colorado and Columbus will play in Tampere on Nov. 4 and 5 with each team featuring plenty of Finnish flavor. The Avalanche have Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen, while the Blue Jackets are managed by Jarmo Kekalainen and have star Finnish scorer Patrik Laine.

The NHL has so far staged 34 regular-season games outside North America in six different countries and eight cities. Tampere is set to be the ninth.