TORONTO – The NHL is heading back to Europe.
The league has announced four games next season in Berlin, Stockholm and Helsinki. It marks the fifth straight season the NHL will play regular-season games in Europe.
The Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres will play Oct. 7 in Helsinki. The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings meet in Stockholm. The Sabres and Kings will play the following day in Berlin, with the Rangers taking on the Ducks in Stockholm.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” said Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. “To go to Sweden … that’s going to be very special.”
The Sabres-Kings game will be the NHL’s first regular-season game in Germany. The Kings also will play an exhibition game in Hamburg on Oct. 4.
The Ducks play an exhibition game Oct. 4 against the Finnish club Jokerit, the former team of Ducks star Teemu Selanne.
In fact, the entire Anaheim schedule seems designed to entice Selanne to play another year. The Finnish Flash, who will turn 41 this summer, is contemplating retirement after 18 NHL seasons despite finishing as the league’s eighth-leading scorer with 80 points.
“It’s not going to affect my decision,” Selanne said with a grin. “Obviously it’s a great experience, and (Helsinki) is a great hockey city. I don’t know my own situation yet, but if I’m playing, it’s going to be huge.”
Selanne spent three seasons with Jokerit, which plays in a suburb of Helsinki, before he joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets in 1992. He re-signed with the club during the 1994 lockout and again in 2004-05, although he didn’t play during that stint while recovering from knee surgery.
The Ducks have three additional Finnish players: centre Saku Koivu, defenceman Toni Lydman and forward Jarkko Ruutu.
Anaheim opened the 2007-08 season in London with two games against the Kings, but Selanne didn’t make the trip while considering retirement following the Ducks’ Stanley Cup title run.
While the Ducks were honoured to be selected to play overseas, not everybody enjoyed the trip, Selanne recalls.
“It’s going to be a crazy experience for the guys, but at the same time, it’s tough,” Selanne said. “When the guys went to London, some of them weren’t very happy when they had to stop (on the East Coast) to play more games on the way home. It’s a long, tough trip, but it’s a great life experience for the guys.”
—With files from The Canadian Press.