The NHL returns to Europe with games in Prague and Tampere

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

The league announced Thursday that 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 of the 2022 World Series.

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

Their first of two games at Prague’s O2 Arena on Oct. 7-8 will mark the first NHL game in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabers 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 scheduled to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against Boston before the pandemic canceled NHL plans. This will be the franchise’s European debut after playing two games in Saitama, Japan in 2000.

The Sharks were a natural choice due to Czech star Tomas Hertl, who recently signed an eight-year, $65.1 million contract to stay in San Jose. Hertl is from Prague.

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

The NHL has so far hosted 34 regular season games away from North America in six different countries and eight cities. Tampere should be the ninth.

Berta D. Wells