Courtesy of the NHL
On Sept. 23 and 24, the National Hockey League hosted the first ever games in the Southern Hemisphere as the NHL Global Series visited Melbourne, Australia. The Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes were the lucky teams who got to play in the two preseason games down under at Rod Laver Arena, the home of the Australian Open, and each team got a win on the special trip. The Coyotes came away with a 5-3 victory from the first contest where rookie Logan Cooley gathered all the attention for his first jaw dropping goal on NHL ice. The Kings got the win the next day, topping the Yotes 3-2.
But the impact and significance of the Global Series will last far beyond the final buzzer. The NHL is always looking to grow the game and the Global Series is one of the most unique ways of bringing the sport to individuals around the world who may not typically be able to watch live professional hockey on a regular basis. The Australians who were lucky enough to attend the two preseason games in Melbourne got to see some of the league’s most talented players and were able to watch a live NHL game which is a memorable event. For many, this was the first and maybe only time they’d get to see the NHL in their country. And for some others, they had waited patiently for the chance to experience an NHL contest again. Both games brought in sold out crowds and it was extra special getting to see Jordan Spence, a defenseman for the Kings, take the ice as he’s the only Australian-born NHL player in the history of the league.
Although the Global Series games in Melbourne will help grow the game internationally and bring in new fans, the impact left on hockey in Australia is already evident. Australia has been a member of the IIHF since 1938 and the Australian Ice Hockey League has competed to win the Goodall Cup every year since its founding in 2000. There are thousands of registered players in the country and the sport is quite popular down under.
As part of the Global Series, some players of the Coyotes got to meet with an Indigenous hockey team in Australia that gives at-risk kids a chance to play and find a place they belong. The Kaurna Boomerangs are just one example of how important hockey is not only for the Indigenous communities, but for the children who need it most as well. Getting the NHL players to connect with the team and experience the culture was extraordinary and those children got a once in a lifetime experience because the NHL came to Australia. It’s stories like this that show how important the Global Series is and how the league can continue to grow the game worldwide.
Courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
The Global Series will return to Sweden in November where four games will be held featuring four different teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild. As fans look forward to those contests, it’s crucial we remember how the first NHL games ever hosted in the Southern Hemisphere will leave a lasting impact on the people of Australia and hockey players on the continent for years to come.