Leonsis: Caps won't travel to Europe ... for now

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
10:23
AM ET
Canada let me back in yesterday. It's always a 50-50 proposition. I'm off to Detroit on Wednesday for the Cup banner-raising the following night. That'll be a sight to see, especially since Def Leppard is rocking the house at Joe Louis!

I'd like to touch on Europe one last time before we turn the page for the rest of the year.

So, what happens next season?

In 2007-08, London, England got to see Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Pronger and Anze Kopitar. This year, Stockholm got Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson, while Prague's star power included Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Markus Naslund, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

The obvious name that's begging for some Euro love is Alexander Ovechkin. So I asked Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis if he was up for a trip overseas next fall.

"Hockey is truly a global game and playing in Europe to kick off our season is a big and great idea," Leonsis told ESPN.com in an e-mail. "For the Washington Capitals, we are rebuilding our fan base and using our new world-class Kettler Capitals Iceplex (two-year old practice facility) is an important pillar to our overall plan to become a great franchise.

"Our fans come out to support our team. The practice facility is located very close to our Hershey affiliate and we need to continue to build out our plan of leveraging Kettler Capitals Iceplex, our AHL franchise, and the rebuild of our roster to try and win a Stanley Cup.

"Hence, I don't foresee us traveling to Europe to play in the short term, but I do see us doing so at some point to support our league's marketing efforts as we continue to become everyone's second favorite team."

In short, not next year, but maybe in years to come.

The Cup-champion Red Wings are a great vehicle to help sell the game in Europe given that nearly half the Swedish national team helped Detroit to an NHL championship. But that would have been good for this year in Stockholm. Surely, next year, the league will find new venues, most logically in Finland and perhaps Germany, as well.

How about Saku Koivu and the Montreal Canadiens in Finland? The only fly in the ointment is the Habs captain is slated for unrestricted free agency July 1. During last season's All-Star break in Atlanta, the league announced the Prague and Stockholm events. It was billed as Jaromir Jagr goes home to Prague with the Rangers. Of course, he was gone in July.

Lesson learned?

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