The Oilers and Devils will kick things off Saturday evening (morning for us here in Edmonton) in Gothenburg, Sweden at the Scandanavium.
1. The Scandanavium was constructed in 1971 and is usually home to Frölunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League. It’s been home to major sporting events such as the World Hockey Championships, the World Synchronized Skating Championships, and the Davis Cup. The Scandanavium’s biggest recorded crowd came back in 1981 for a Whitney Houston concert.
2. Playing international games has always been a thing the NHL has done. In 1938, the league’s top two teams, the Canadiens and Red Wings, played an eight-game series in England and France. In 1959, the Bruins and Rangers played a whopping 23-game tour in England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium. Then, the 70s saw the rise of the Super Series, in which top NHL teams would play top teams from the Soviet Union. In 1976, the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals played the first NHL games in Japan. 20 years later, the first regular season NHL games were played outside of North America, as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Vancouver Canucks played two games in Japan. Between 2007 and 2011 the league played a handful of regular season games in Europe as part of “NHL Premier.” The initiative was re-launched in 2017 as the “Global Series” when the Senators and Avalanche played two games in Stockholm. This year, beyond the Oilers and Devils, the Jets and Panthers will play two games in Helsinki at the beginning of November.
3. It’s been a while since the Oilers have played across the pond. The Oilers and St. Louis Blues played a four-game tournament of exhibition games back in 1990 in Germany and Austria. They beat Düsseldorf EG 2-0, Graz EC 12-3, and lost to the Blues 10–1. The Oilers would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season, their first and only post-Gretzky Cup, despite a very mediocre start to the season in which they sat with a 6-9-5 record after 20 games. Hmmmm.
4. The Devils played their special pre-season game in Bern, Switzerland against SC Bern, of course, because of Nico Hischier, the first-ever Swiss player to be drafted first overall in the NHL draft. In terms of Swedes for the home crowd, the Oilers will be featuring Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson while the Devils will feature forwards Marcus Johanssen and Jesper Bratt and backup goalie Eddie Lack.
5. Both the Devils and Oilers, somewhat surprisingly, went to overtime against their European club opponents. Obviously, the rosters in Europe are nowhere near as strong as the NHL teams, but the game on the big ice is completely different. That’s why you seldom see these club teams just getting rolled over by their more skilled NHL opponents. Also, the guys on the Euro rosters have a lot more to prove. Imagine you’re Ryan Jones or Mark Arcobello, a former fringe NHLer, playing against an NHL team. This is probably the biggest game of your season.
6. I can’t imagine either the Devils or the Oilers having an advantage over one another on the big ice but that’s a moot point considering tomorrow’s game is played on an NHL style rink.
7. When asked about playing with Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins described the chemistry that has started to form between the first line trio.
“He’s definitely our leader. He wants to start the season off hard and the right way. We know that. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to go. Ty (Rattie) is a good addition to our line, too. So far, it’s been clicking.”