Two NHL teams from the sunny south are coming to London.
On Tuesday morning, Budweiser Gardens announced that they will host an NHL pre-season game on Sunday, October 2nd at 3 PM between the Florida Panthers and the Dallas Stars.
This will mark the twelfth time in its history that the building has hosted a game like this and the first time that either the Panthers or the Stars have played in London.
Florida defenceman, Aaron Ekblad was on hand for the announcement. The last time he left the ice in London was May of 2013 and Bo Horvat had just scored an OHL Championship winning goal with 0.1 seconds left in Game 7. That memory is still inside him and Ekblad admits, it might not make his list of favourite places to play right now, he is still looking forward to stepping back on the ice.
“We had a lot of good battles here, so I respect it, big time. There’s always a sense of excitement… and the fans are very good to the players.”
The game will showcase two of the more exciting and young teams in the National Hockey League. The Panthers made the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and will be looking to build on that in 2016-17. Dallas lost in seven games to St. Louis in the Conference Semi-finals and will have high expectation this year.
In the past, pre-season games have provided big attractions for the area. Tourism London General Manager, John Winston says their numbers show it isn’t just Londoners who buy tickets.
“We know people come in to see exhibition games. Some come and stay overnight, but we get a lot of people from within the region who come and watch the game. It certainly adds to the economic impact in our restaurants, particularly.”
Winston goes on to add that Budweiser Gardens is a big part of attracting events like this and remembers back to all of the discussions that took place and the debate over whether the downtown was the right place for it to be.
“Nobody wanted to see it in the downtown core. They didn’t think the investment was worth it, but it has been the best investment we’ve ever made.”
Fans might be wondering where the Philadelphia Flyers are, given that they have been London’s NHL “home team” more than any other club. Brian Ohl, the General Manager of Budweiser Gardens says that it boils down to some simple mathematics.
“As a company, (Comcast Spectacor) has grown a lot so the Flyers have some other obligations and play at some other venues for some of the pre-season. We hope to get them back at some point, but we are really happy that the Panthers decided to fill that void and bring their hockey up here.”
Tickets will go on sale on Monday, August 15th at the Budweiser Gardens box office and online at www.budweisergardens.com