USATSI_9935265_154158418_lowresOlympic participation may be up in the air, but the NHL has committed to playing at least two regular season games in Sweden in November of 2017.

The league will send the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators to Stockholm for two games on November 10 and 11. The games are part of the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series and will mark the sixth time the NHL has played a regular season game in Europe.

“It’s really exciting,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. “Who thought they would have been able to play NHL games in your hometown. It’ll be surreal to do that. Stockholm is such a great hockey town and a great city overall. I’ll be really excited to show the boys around and show the team staff around the city.”

Landeskog was born in Stockholm and will join Senators captain Erik Karlsson to play in his home country. Other Swedes include Colorado’s Anton Lindholm and Carl Soderberg and Ottawa’s Frederik Claesson and Viktor Stalberg.

“We have more Swedish players than ever in the NHL and we are extremely pleased that the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series will allow us to showcase a number of those players, with their NHL teams, in their homeland,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “The return of regular-season NHL games to the international stage will provide yet another highlight for our Centennial celebration.”

With about 26 percent of NHLers born outside of North America, league outreach to other markets is inevitable and wise. It’s clear that participation in the Olympics is still a hot button issue, but for Bettman and Co. it’s all about markets more likely to sell the game. And at this point, there’s more belief in advancing the NHL’s influence in Europe than there is in accomplishing the same goal in PyeongChang.

Ottawa has already been down this road, travelling to Europe in 2008 for the Bridgestone NHL Premiere. They split two games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm. And ahead of the 2008 season, the Senators played exhibition hockey against Frolunda.

Colorado, meanwhile, will be making their second trip to Europe. They were part of the 2001 NHL Challenge Series when they took on Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League. Alex Tanguay scored a hat trick.

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