In an attempt to further extend the National Hockey League brand to a global audience, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang will be taking his team to China ahead of the next NHL season, Sportsnet has learned.
The Islanders will be spending 10 days in China, from September 13-23, with stops in Beijing and Shanghai. The team-based initiative has been given approval from both the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.
This venture will also be the latest step by the Islanders in helping grow the sport in the Far East. Wang, who became a part-owner of the NHL team in 2000 before increasing his share in 2004, has personally funded 24 outdoor/recreational ice pads through different parts of China and has sponsored the women’s Chinese Olympic hockey team. Wang also established a five-year program with a Chinese sports commission that, with the help of the Islanders, will help boost the grass-root levels of the sport in China.
In the past, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league was looking at new ways to connect with fans around the world.
The league has played regular season games in Europe the last three years. This season, the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues played a two-game series in Stockholm, Sweden while the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers did the same in Helsinki, Finland.
Last season, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning faced off in Prague, Czech Republic while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators played in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings opened the 2007-08 NHL regular season in front of two sell-out crowds in London, England.