MELBOURNE, Australia -- The National Hockey League [NHL] will bring two pre-season games to Australia later this year, the first time the United States-based league has ventured into the Southern Hemisphere.
The Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes will contest the pair of games at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena -- which has a capacity of around 15,000 spectators -- on September 23 and 24, as part of the '2023 NHL Global Series'.
The 2023/24 NHL regular season is expected to begin a fortnight later, though no date has been set given the current season is yet to conclude.
Making the announcement on Wednesday morning via video conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he was excited to bring the league to Australia, believing it will fast track the growth of the sport in the Asia/Pacific market.
"We are delighted to bring the excitement and passion of the National Hockey League to the dynamic city of Melbourne and the great sports fans of Australia with the 2023 Global Series games," Bettman said.
"The Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings are two of our League's rising young teams and among our most innovative and adventurous franchises. We look forward to their two games at Rod Laver Arena and know this history-making visit will thrill our many avid fans in Australia and cause so many more throughout the sports-loving nation to be captivated by our great game."
North American hockey is no stranger to Australia. In recent years, Sydney hosted exhibition clashes between the United States and Canada, albeit featuring teams comprised mostly of former NHL players.
This time, the NHL is committed to ensuring fans receive an authentic ice hockey experience that will leave them wanting more.
"The intention would not be to come to Australia, play and never come back," said David Proper, NHL senior executive vice president, media and international strategy. "These games will be a true experience of an NHL game as they exist in North America.
"All the top players from the teams will be here participating. We will be bringing a full NHL regulation ice rink here, which is no short endeavour. It will have all the entertainment and ancillary activities that come with the game, in addition to the game itself. There will be shipping of a lot of equipment, but ultimately Rod Laver Arena will no longer be a tennis arena for one weekend, but instead be an NHL hockey arena.
"While we'd love for you to come to a game in North America, we're going to bring a game from North America here for you to see. In many ways, it's a sport that once you see it, you're hooked and you will continue to be a fan."
The NHL joins Major League Baseball [MLB] as two of the four major North American sporting leagues to have taken their sport to Australia. In 2014, MLB opened its season at the SCG with a series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The teams will practice at O'Brien Icehouse in Docklands in the days leading up to the two-game series before shifting to Rod Laver Arena.
Both games will commence at 2 p.m. and are expected to sell out. Tickets, which start at $79 for children and $99 for adults, go on sale via Ticketek.com.au on April 17. Hospitality and corporate packages are already on sale.