3 international cities poised to host the NHL next
The China Games in Shanghai and Beijing over the last few days have, despite low fan turnout, pushed the game of hockey across borders that had previously never been breached in the 100-year history of the NHL.
Cracking the massive untapped hockey market that is China will be a slow - but potentially profitable - process that won't happen overnight. But, in the long run, boosting the game in new, worldwide markets can only be good for the sport and the league.
With that said, China isn't the be-all and end-all of potential international markets the league could promote the game in.
Here's a look into three other international cities the NHL could visit next:
Gangneung, South Korea
In addition to already having brand new facilities like the arena in the coastal city of Gangneung, South Korea is a budding hockey market with a quality national team on the rise - South Korea qualified for the 2018 World Championship in Denmark next spring, the first time the country will be competing in a tournament of that magnitude.
Not only is the country seeing its on-ice product drastically improve, but the recently built stadiums are state of the art.
The rink in Gangneung will be used as one of the two sites for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games, and, despite the of lack of NHL Olympic involvement, South Korea is still primed to host a set of international games like the ones in China.
If the infrastructure in place isn't enough to sway the NHL, maybe the population of more than 50 million people will.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Already home to the Giants of the Elite Ice Hockey League, the capital city of Northern Ireland has proven it can play host to some high-quality hockey, as Belfast hosted the 2017 IIHF Division 1 Championship in April.
On top of already having a niche market interested in the sport, Belfast also boasts a 10,000-plus capacity arena in the heart of the tourist district. It's an ideal location for a stadium considering the fact that in 2012 over 7 million tourists visited the city, spending nearly half-a-billion pounds in the process, according to Belfast City Council.
A place where hockey is already successful that also boasts a prime arena location seems like the ideal setting for the NHL to promote the game next.
While Norway's national team has tasted more success than South Korea, it also has the groundwork laid to host a successful series of NHL games.
The city of Lillehammer hosted the Winter Games back in 1994, which resulted in the construction of multiple venues capable of accommodating hockey. One of those arenas is located only an hour and a half outside the capital city of Oslo in the town of Hamar.
Hamar is home to the "Northern Light Hall" which can seat up to 7,000 fans.
Despite being over 20 years old, the rink in Hamar could still be a suitable venue to host NHL games, as it recently underwent renovations and additions in 2016.
The country's national sport may still be cross-country skiing, but winter sports - and more specifically the game of hockey - have always been popular in Norway. This is especially so of late, as NHL players like the New York Rangers' Mats Zuccarello and Montreal Canadiens' Andreas Martinsen have rekindled the nation's interest in puck.
Gary Bettman and Co. would be wise to consider this northern destination.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)