|Anaheim Ducks bring Stanley Cup back home to England|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 10:19|
The Ducks, who practiced at the O2 Arena for the first time Wednesday, will open the NHL season in the British capital on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings - a game far away from home and one which Ducks coach Randy Carlyle could have done without.
``It's the hand we've been dealt,'' Carlyle said. ``We're never happy with the scheduling.''
The trip may not fit in with Anaheim's plans for a repeat championship, but they are perfect for the NHL, which is trying to further break into the European market.
``There is a hockey tradition here that goes back to Lord Stanley,'' said Ken Yaffe, a senior vice president for NHL International. ``We've got a big British fan base. We've got a big ex-pat fan base.''
Lord Frederick Stanley, a Governor General of Canada in the 19th century, bought the cup from a London silversmith and donated it to Canada's top amateur team in 1892. In 1910, it was given to the champion of a professional competition and remained that way until it became the property of the NHL in 1917.
The Stanley Cup made its first trip to London last year, when it was brought out for a ceremony to unveil a plaque on the building where it was made.
On Wednesday, the Ducks took a double-decker bus tour with the trophy around the city.
The NHL has opened the season outside North America three times, all in Japan. The series in Europe, where many of the league's top players come from, is likely to lead to more games on the continent.
``Obviously we can't play a full slate of games here, but we are a league that has global fan interest,'' Yaffe said.
The hockey fans that do show up for the sold-out games at the 17,500-seat arena won't get to see standout goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere, forward Samuel Pahlsson and defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who are all injured. However, Giguere and Pahlsson, who had similar sports hernia operations in the offseason, did skate Wednesday.
``I don't know if I'll be ready to play this weekend,'' said Giguere, who left the ice before the majority of his teammates came on. ``I'm feeling pretty good.''
The Kings are getting ready for the games by playing in an exhibition tournament in Austria. They are expected to arrive in London on Thursday.
The O2, which opened this summer, will also host an NBA preseason game Oct. 10 when the Boston Celtics play the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On Oct. 28, the NFL will play a regular season game at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium when the Miami Dolphins face the New York Giants.
But the first test for American sports in London comes Saturday.
``People here are hopefully going to give it a chance,'' Giguere said. ``There's nothing like a live hockey game.''