Melbourne, Austallia – The Arizona Coyotes travel to Australia to take on the Los Angeles Kings for a preseason series with games taking place on September 23rd and 24th. The first set of NHL games to take place in Australia is another attempt by the NHL to grow its market overseas.
These games will be played at Rod Laver Arena, named after the famous Australian tennis player, Rod Laver. Laver won 11 Grand Slam titles and was ranked as the best tennis player from 1964-70. Rod Laver Arena holds nearly 15,000 fans.
Speaking of Australians, Jordan Spence, the first NHL born Australian player, will be making the trip to Melbourne with the Kings. Spence was a fourth-round pick in 2019, playing 30 games in the NHL with the Kings over the past two seasons, recording nine points. With hockey not being one of the more popular sports in Australia, the NHL has had very few Australian players.
The Coyotes and Kings both have embarked on their 15 hour plus flight to give both of their teams enough time to adjust to the 17 hour time zone difference. Both teams have announced their roster for the two game series. For Arizona, they get their first look at Logan Cooley, the third overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. After his announcement on social media that he would be going back to play another season of college hockey for the Minnesota Gophers, Cooley ended up signing his entry level contract with Arizona months later. The center brings a much needed offensive firepower to the team, being a named finalist for the Hobey Baker Award last season (awarded to the best player in college hockey). The Coyotes added many new faces as well as retuners to the team this offseason. The Kings on the other hand will get to see their newly acquired center, Pierre-Luc Dubios, who was traded to Los Angeles this offseason from the Winnipeg Jets. Dubios was drafted third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2016 NHL Draft. Last season the Canadian put up 63 points in 73 games with Winnipeg.
For the people of Australia, hockey has similar levels of physicality that compare to Australian football and rugby. So far, 21,000 tickets have been sold for the game with anticipation of both games selling out. The NHL Global Series is a relatively new initiative by the NHL, starting in 2017 with games in Europe, Asia, and now Australia. Out of the four major sports in North America, hockey is the least popular. With all the expensive equipment needed to play, plus all the costs of ice time and to play on a team, the NHL has tried to expand its brand overseas to grow the sport and its market.
For the Coyotes and Kings, it's an opportunity to grow their fandoms overseas and give their players an experience they will never forget. With both teams making splashes to improve their teams during the offseason, expect a competitive set of Global Series preseason games in Australia.