NHL games in London are a good draw, even if soccer is king Print
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Sunday, 30 September 2007 07:20
NHL Headline News

 LONDON (AP) -These fans aren't about to trade their soccer balls for hockey pucks.
The NHL began its season at the packed O2 Arena on Saturday, with the Los Angeles Kings getting a 4-1 win over the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. But the sport is unlikely to make a dent in the country's main obsession.
``I don't think it will have much of a difference on the profile of the sport in this country,'' London resident Mark Heckroodt said. ``It's good of them to try and do it, and people who have been here tonight will take more notice of the sport, but it's like trying to take football to America. It will take a while to catch on.''
By football, of course, Heckroodt means the kind that David Beckham plays.
But despite soccer's dominance in most parts of Europe, Rob Andrews, a local hockey coach who attended the game with his son Steven, appreciated the chance to see an NHL game in person.
``People who follow the sport over here can only dream of watching an NHL game,'' Andrews said. ``But now it's on our doorstep, which can only be good.
``It gives people an opportunity to see something live that we are passionate about.''
The crowd Saturday turned out to be a mix of Kings and Ducks fans, with some spectators coming to see their favorite players rather than a specific team.
``My two friends have come over from Slovakia,'' said Greg Kryzlakov, a Slovak who traveled to London from his home in Birmingham. ``I'm here to see Lubomir Visnovsky, Michael Handzus and Ladislav Nagy. They all play for the Kings and they are all from Slovakia.''
Handzus even provided a goal, even if it was an empty-netter as time was running out. Mike Cammalleri and Rob Blake also scored for the Kings, while Bobby Ryan scored for the Ducks.
``It's a good export of culture and they seemed to have pulled it off well,'' Andrews said. ``It looks like a genuine attempt to showcase a new sport.''
Steven Andrews, a goaltender on his dad's team, was just excited to watch some of his favorite players live.
``I'm here to see (Anze) Kopitar, Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer,'' he said. ``I've never seen a hockey game in surroundings this big, so it's pretty amazing.''
The surroundings certainly confused technical staff at the O2, which had a capacity crowd for the first of the two-game series. The game was delayed by 16 minutes because of a mixup with the lights after the singing of the U.S. and British national anthems.
 

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