Report: Mexico City eyes NHL exhibition games
Mexico, the third-largest hockey market in North America, has set its sights on hosting a pair of NHL exhibition games.
And before you ask, no, this is not an April Fool's Day prank.
Mexican sports news site La Aficion reported on Wednesday that local officials have met twice with the league in hopes of “bringing preseason NHL games to [Mexico] city.”
Joaquín de la Garma, president of the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation and the man behind the plan, said that the Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings are the most popular teams in his country and would be his preferred participants for what he envisions as a pair of contests at some unspecified point in the future.
That vision though may be as far as it goes.
Not that there's anything wrong with thinking big. After all, the Mexican capital has succeeded as a neutral-site host for major sports in the past, including five NFL games (with a sixth, between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders, scheduled for November) along with three NBA contests. And the NHL is all about expanding the footprint of its brand.
But this concept has more problems than the Taco Bell Seafood Salad.
For one: the lack of an adequate facility. The most likely venue, the Palacio de los Deportes, has a capacity of over 20,000 but lacks ice-making equipment. There are two convention centers that could host as well, but they're also ice-free.
There's also the matter of a nearly non-existent hockey community. Sure, the country's national team claimed gold at the 2016 Division III World Juniors last January, but even though the greater Mexico City area boasts a population of more than 20 million people, fewer than 2,000 of them play the sport. And since NHL games aren't broadcast into the market, there's little opportunity to capitalize on the exposure once the team's leave town.
Which is probably the number one reason that the NHL isn't biting.
"We have not given any serious consideration at this point to having a game in Mexico," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told SI.com.
That's bad news for fans hoping to catch an up-close glimpse of Brent Burns or Anze Kopitar, but at least they can look forward to seeing the national teams of North Korea, Australia, Israel, Bulgaria and New Zealand when Mexico City hosts the 2016 IIHF Division II Group B World Championship starting April 9.