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Mennaan Buffalo!

Helsinki, Finland

Sabres to kick off next season in Helsinki and Berlin

While Sabres fans around the globe are beginning to feel the excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we here at Artvoice have our attention focused on an announcement that was made just this week. Most fans’ concerns may be with when the Sabres 2010-11 campaign will end, but we’re taking a look at how, and more specifically where, the Sabres 2011-12 season will begin.

It won’t begin in Buffalo.

It won’t begin in Philadelphia.(Ick!)

How about Helsinki. Yes, that’s Helsinki—as in Finland.

The Sabres will be opening the 2011-12 NHL season as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere/NHL Face-Off, a series of exhibition and regular season games featuring Buffalo, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and the New York Rangers in the cities of Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, and Hamburg. The Sabres events are two regular season games, the first coming on October 7 at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki against the Anaheim Ducks, to be followed by a game the next night in Berlin’s O2 World Arena against the Los Angeles Kings. The game in Berlin will be a real history-maker, as it is the first NHL regular season game to be played in Germany.

If Jochen Hecht is still around next season, he'll enjoy a warm homecoming in Berlin.

So. Puhutko suomea? (Do you speak Finnish?) Sprechen Sie Deutsch? (Do you speak German?)

Both arenas are modern and spectacular venues to play in. Hartwall Areena seats more than 13,000 and hosts the powerhouse Finnish hockey club Jokerit. Berlin’s O2 is a bit larger, with more than 17,000 seats. Opened much more recently in September 2008, it houses the Deustchland Elite League’s Eisbaren Berlin hockey club.

Information about the Sabres travel plans and length of stay is still sketchy. Sabres PR director Mike Gilbert reports that even the training camp and practice venues are still up in the air. “There will be one or two exhibition games as well, but this is a league event and they are planning everything,” said Gilbert.

It’s no coincidence that Anaheim was chosen to play in Finland. Three players on this season’s Ducks roster hail from there: former Sabre Toni Lydman, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne, possibly the finest Finn ever to lace up skates in the NHL. Also on the schedule in Helsinki is a game featuring the Ducks and Selanne’s former Finnish club Jokerit. And as long as Philip Anschutz and the Anschutz Entertainment Groups own the LA Kings, with their investments in overseas sporting venues, the Kings will continue to be a player in these events as well.

The game in Germany may be a bit of a homecoming for Jochen Hecht, as he hails from Mannheim, and Thomas Vanek’s homeland of Austria isn’t far away either. “The players are excited to be a part of something like this,” Gilbert says. “They’ve talked to other players who have made this trip in the past. It should be fun for everyone involved.”

This will be the fifth consecutive season that the NHL is playing regular season games over in Europe. The Kings and Ducks started off the trend by playing a pair of games in London’s O2 Arena in the fall of 2007. Games have been hosted in Helsinki, Stockolm, and Prague as well featuring nearly half of the NHL’s teams. In fact, of the four teams involved in 2011-12 games, only Buffalo will be a first time participant, as the Rangers also opened the 2008-09 season in Prague against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So, it’s 4,131 miles(6,648 kilometers) from Buffalo to Helsinki and 4,044 miles (6,508 kilometers) to Berlin. Who’s interested in going? We at Artvoice are lining up plans for what would be an epic travel adventure. And for fans interested, the tickets are going to go on sale quickly. The Helsinki games will go on sale at 9am Helsinki time (2am here in Buffalo) on April 20, and Berlin games on Friday, April 15. For more info on the games at sites involving Buffalo, log on to the following sites; (Helsinki) and (Berlin). For the Helsinki website, there is a drop box on the top right to translate the page into English.

Also each of the NHL teams will be offering travel packages, with details to follow. “What sort of fan excursion we can put together is something that remains to do, but we are hoping that local fans travel well and make the effort,” says Gilbert.

Mennään Buffalo! (Let’s go, Buffalo!)


• Taro declares that no Tastykakes are to be consumed, nor cheese steaks, nor cream cheese that allegedly represents a certain city in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Soft pretzels are also to be ignored.

• Also, as to rumors of people wanting to grow “playoff mustaches” in honor of the recently departed Rick Martin. Taro sez, “Fair enough, but to do it properly. One must rock the ’70s era sideburns as well.”

• This will be the ninth time that the Sabres and Flyers meet in the postseason. That’s a Sabres record for most times facing a single club in the postseason.

• History tells us that if Buffalo is leading a series against Philadelphia heading into a game six, things will turn out quite well for the Sabres. Such a a scenario has occured twice in franchise history (2001, 2006). Combined final score: Buffalo 15, Philly 1.

• Therefore Taro calls his shot. Buffalo in six games.

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