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Monday, November 03, 2008

NHL Games Outside North America



The NHL has started the regular season outside of North America five times, with the most recent being this season.


Many have argued that starting a team outside of North America puts them at a disadvantage during the first few games of the season.  The team is more tired and jet-lagged and the shorter offseason is detrimental.


Today we're going to take a look at the teams that started the season overseas, their records in their five ten games in North America and, comparing their first ten games to the rest of the season, try and determine if starting the season away from home negatively affected them.


October 1997
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim VS. Vancouver Canucks
Tokyo, Japan

The two teams split the two games in Japan.

Anaheim's first ten games in North America: 3-3-4 record
Anaheim's record that season: 26-43-13

Vancouver's first ten games in North America: 2-6-2 record
Vancouver's record that season: 25-43-14


October 1998
Calgary Flames VS. San Jose Sharks
Tokyo, Japan

The two teams tied the first game in Japan and Calgary won the second.

Calgary's first ten games in North America: 3-6-1 record
Calgary's record that season: 30-40-12

San Jose's first ten games in North America: 2-5-3 record
San Jose's record that season: 31-33-18


October 2000
Pittsburgh Penguins VS. Nashville Predators
Tokyo, Japan

The two teams split the two games in Japan.

Pittsburgh's first ten games in North America: 5-4-1-3 record
Pittsburgh's record that season: 42-28-9

Nashville's first ten games in North America: 4-3-3-3 record
Nashville's record that season: 34-36-9


September 2007
Anaheim Ducks VS. Los Angeles Kings
London, England

The two teams split the two games in England.

Anaheim's first ten games in North America: 3-6-1 record
Anaheim's record that season: 47-27-8

Los Angeles' first ten games in North America: 5-5-0 record
Los Angeles' record that season: 32-43-7


October 2008
Pittsburgh Penguins VS. Ottawa Senators
Stockholm, Sweden

The two teams split the games in Sweden.

Pittsburgh's first ten games in North America: 5-3-2 record

Ottawa's first nine games in North America: 3-5-1 record
* Ottawa has not yet played ten games this season


October 2008
New York Rangers VS. Tampa Bay Lightning
Prague, Czech Republic

New York won both games in the Czech Republic

New York's first ten games in North America: 7-2-1 record

Tampa Bay's first eight games in North America: 4-1-3 record
* Tampa Bay has not yet played ten games this season


What we can see is that only four of those teams (the 2000 and 2008 Penguins, the 2008 Lightning and the 2008 Rangers) managed a record above .500 in their first ten games of the season (Ottawa and Tampa Bay have not played 10 games this season, but their records will still be over .500 regardless of the outcomes of their remaining games).  


If we exclude this year, that leaves only the 2000 Penguins.  This year the league made an effort to give the teams starting in Europe a week long break before they started the season in North America, which could have impacted their starts.


However, out of the eight teams that started overseas prior to this season, seven of them finished the season with a better winning percentage overall than they did in their first 10 games.  The 2007 Los Angeles Kings are the only exception.


This shows that most teams that start the season overseas perform worse in their first ten games than they do in the rest of the season.  This means that an overseas start likely does affect a team's performance in their first few games.


Likely this is caused by fatigue as the teams that played overseas this season (with a week long break between the overseas games and the North American ones) performed considerably better in their first few games than the teams in the past.


I think that starting the season outside of North America is a good way to grow the game worldwide.  Now that the stats have shown that a week long rest benefits the teams playing, I feel the league should continue to operate their international starts in the same manner they did this year, rather than tiring out the teams that play overseas.


Credit: Hockey-Reference.com for the historical game results

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