An exterior view of Palacio de Deportes (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
The NHL could be heading to Mexico for the 2016-17 preseason. According to a report, the league has met twice with the Mexican Ice Hockey Federation president about potential exhibition games in Mexico City.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but the NHL may be heading to Mexico for the first time in league history for a pair of exhibition games.
According to SportsBusinessDaily.com, Mexican news agency Notimex reported that the Mexican government and other officials are trying to bring a two-game set of exhibition games to Mexico City in time for the 2016-17 post-season. Nothing is set in stone, but Mexican Ice Hockey Federation (FDMHSH) president Joaquín de la Garma said he has met with NHL officials twice to discuss the possibility of preseason games in Mexico.
Notimex reported the most popular teams in Mexico are the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, but de la Garma noted the NHL would be in charge of which teams head to Mexico should the games take place. That said, de la Garma also told Notimex that all 30 teams have some level of interest in playing in Mexico City.
“The idea is to organize two games,” de la Garma told Notimex. “One on Friday and another at noon Sunday.” He added that he expects both games to be sold out.
Before any games can be played in Mexico, though, the NHL and FDMHSH would have to find a place for the contests to take place. According to Notimex, the likely venue would be Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City, which can seat roughly 20,000. The arena has previously hosted NBA action and was used during the 1968 Olympics. However, should the Palacio de los Deportes be in use during the time exhibition games were to be played, the games could be relocated to a convention center in Mexico City.
The NHL has played games outside of North America before, with the most recent set being the 2011 NHL Premiere games that saw contests throughout Europe. The Premiere series ran for five seasons, but the NHL had a history of playing overseas before that. In 1997, 1998 and 2000, the league hosted a pair of regular season games in Japan.
Mexico City wouldn’t be the southernmost location to host an NHL game, either. San Juan, Puerto Rico — which is only slightly further south than Mexico City — hosted an exhibition game between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in 2006.