The NHL is returning to Sweden, and it’s a bit odd the Vancouver Canucks aren’t there.
Instinctually, you know they are a team full of Swedes: their superstar is Swedish, they have two Hall of Famers who hail from Sweden, a whole pile of team legends are Swedish. Heck, they have a Swedish general manager.
And they fit the NHL’s criteria for playing in the league’s Global Series, which has teams in Sweden later this week, but also took teams to Australia in September.
So why are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild in Stockholm, but not the Vancouver Canucks?
A team spokesperson confirmed to Postmedia that the team hasn’t been involved in talks for any future NHL events.
President of hockey operations Jim Rutherford told Postmedia that he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, though.
“It would be fun though, and I would be in favour of it,” he said.
The Canucks certainly would seem to fit the NHL’s criteria.
“The NHL Global Series games are an opportunity for the league to connect with our international fans by bringing the excitement of NHL games to their country. We know that fandom is driven by local players, so one of the primary considerations when choosing clubs to participate is the roster makeup of the team,” NHL spokesperson Chole Bleyer explained in an email earlier this week.
“For this year’s event, it was important to select clubs that currently have Swedish players on the team or a history of notable Swedes who have played for them.”
That last sentence is pretty clear. And it’s one the Canucks fit to a T.
The Leafs have William Nylander on the team now, and Mats Sundin and Börje Salming in their past.
The Detroit Red Wings have Lucas Raymond on the team now, and Nicklas Lidstrom in their past.
Those two teams fit the criteria perfectly.
The Ottawa Senators have Daniel Alfredsson in their past. Their current squad features Anton Forsberg, Erik Brannstrom and Jacob Larsson. Not exactly stars, but at least they’re Swedes.
The Minnesota Wild have Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Johansson on their current squad, but no real history of Swedes on the roster.
It’s the Wild’s inclusion over the Canucks that’s a bit head-scratching.
How does the Wild’s collection of Swedes compare to a list that includes Elias Pettersson, the Sedin twins, Markus Näslund, Mattias Öhlund and Thomas Gradin? Heck, the Canucks have the first Swedish general manager in NHL history.
On the face of it, the fact the Canucks have not been included by the NHL is really quite surprising.
The team has a history of being tapped by the NHL for overseas affairs.
The Canucks played the first regular season game on foreign soil in Tokyo in 1997, and when the NHL first went to China in 2017 for the NHL China Games, Vancouver was the first team on their list.
The Canucks held training camp in Stockholm in 2000.
The NHL has returned to Sweden for regular season games multiple times over the past 15 years, but the Canucks have never been involved — not even in the Sedins’ heyday.
It’s not down to money, either. When a team is selected for an NHL-run event, they receive compensation for the league buying out one of their home games.
And if you’re inviting a team like the Maple Leafs, that means you’ve got a big budget.
Teams just aren’t losing money on this event — from a marketing standpoint, it has potential to gain some new fans in a hockey-mad market.
At the end of the day, you’re left with only questions.
The Canucks do seem a perfect fit. So what are we missing?
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