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NHL Officially Eyeing Expanding Into a New Country

Published September 22, 2023 at 7:20 PM
BY AUSTIN KELLY
The NHL is looking south of it's border for potential games in the future.

Report : NHL Eyeing Mexico For Future Games



According to Greg Wyshynski in an article for ESPN, the NHL is looking at it's successes in Games outside of Canada and the United States, and would like to potentially host another game, this time in Mexico City.

David Proper, the NHL SEVP of Media and International Strategy, told Wyshynski that the NHL would like to create the first outdoor game outside of North America, with potential suitors interested, but looks at Mexico City as a site of interest, although no plans to do so have been realized.

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"It's certainly something that we are looking very, very carefully at," Proper said. "There's some things we got to figure out if we're going to make it work." - Proper

The NHL has long looked at expanding the game beyond their traditional outlets of talent from within Canada, The United States & parts of Europe, recognizing the opportunity for Hockey to grow and develop in Mexico.

American Markets Looking At Mexico For Growth



Other American Professional sports have begun to tap into what they see is a feasible market, with the NBA's developmental G League having added Mexico City based franchise 'Capitanes' as one of their franchises, joining in the 2021-22 season from the Mexican Basketball League. The NFL has hosted 4 games in Mexico City, most recently in 2022 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. Mexico's Football League, the LFA, has a partnership with the Canadian Football League. MLB played it's first Mexico Series in April of this past year, 2 games between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. The NFL will not play a game in Mexico this season, but will play games in London, UK and Frankfurt, Germany. MLB plans to play in Mexico for 2024.

Unsurprisingly, Mexico's biggest passion, Soccer (Football, for the non-Americans), has also been given notice by American sporting leadership. Mexico's all-time leading International Scorer, Javier Hernandez, has played for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer since 2020. Fellow Mexican star Carlos Vela had the most Jersey sales of any player in MLS, according to MLSstore.com. Hernandez, known also by his nickname 'Chicharito', finished 4th. Other Mexican stars have played in MLS, including Rafael Márquez for the Chicago Fire & Luis Hernández for LA Galaxy. The arrival of arguably the greatest Footballer of all time in Lionel Messi to Inter Miami is no doubt a major selling point to Major League Soccer in promoting the game to Latin markets in the United States and North and Central America, the legendary former Argentine Forward having inspired and captivated many from Mexico in the sport, and the world over. Population Data shows that 72.5% of Miami's population in 2023 are of Hispanic descent.

NHL's Potential For Growth In Mexico



It's clear that the NHL must see itself as a bit behind compared to their fellow major North American leagues. While the test of the "Big 5" have managed to take steps into the potential Mexican fan pool, the NHL is still figuring out it's options. That's not to say that there isn't marketability. Current Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews is from Mexican descent, giving the league an advantage in marketing with a player already familiar with the country, and able to generate interest and revenue in a potential game. Former Montreal Canadiens Captain and current Washington Capitals forward Max Pacioretty also has Mexican heritage through his Mother, offering the potential for players either from Mexico or of Mexican descent to take up the game, but the NHL will have to solve how to bring it to the fans first.

Expansion into Mexico City is an unlikely step, and having yearly games doesn't seem to be feasible just yet, but it is possible that an international game, potentially a preseason matchup could work out. The NHL's Australia game was met with positive feedback, despite the time difference. Having done what it can to expand it's reach to existing outsider markets beyond North America, the league now focuses on Countries in which they have yet to establish a foothold, but believe in the ability to convert fans in countries such as Australia and New Mexico, once ignored areas, into passionate Hockey enjoyers.
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