The Washington Capitals have never played an NHL regular-season game outside of North America but they were very close to doing so during the 2020-21 season. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin revealed the news to Match TV, saying the team was just a few signatures away from playing two games in Russia against the St. Louis Blues.
The matchups would have likely been a part of the NHL’s Global Series plans but had to be shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“It [was going to happen]. But, unfortunately, it didn’t.” Ovechkin told Pavel Lysenkov. “Washington was supposed to play in Moscow with St. Louis. However, then a well-known virus came into the world and a pandemic began. The topic went on pause.
“The only thing left to do was sign the papers. We were supposed to play two games against St. Louis in Russia. One in Moscow, the other in St. Petersburg.”
With the most famous Russian athlete of all time on their roster, the Capitals have long been rumored to play a game in Russia. Those rumors only intensified when the NHL introduced their Global Series event that has seen NHL games played in five different European countries. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sounded ready to take teams to Ovechkin’s home country in 2019.
“My own belief is, if we’re going to play games in Russia — and we know there’s great interest in our game there — it would most likely be from our standpoint regular-season games with two NHL teams,” Bettman said.
The NHL paused their Global Series for two years due to the pandemic and got it back underway in 2022 with games in Switzerland, Germany, Czechia, and Finland. This fall, six more games will take place in Stockholm, Sweden (4) and Melbourne, Australia (2).
The Caps have played many exhibition games internationally in their history. After the 1975-76 campaign, the Caps made their way to Asia for a four-game set in Japan against the Kansas City Scouts. Then in 1980 and 1981 they participated in the DN-Cup in Sweden and Finland and in 1989 went on the “Friendship Tour” across Europe. During that latter twelve-game stint they played games in Sweden and three cities in the USSR.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still ongoing, it’s unlikely the possibility of hosting games in the country is revisited by the NHL any time soon. Both Russia and Belarus are banned from all IIHF hockey competitions at the national and club level for the 2023-24 season.
Ovechkin has just three seasons remaining on what is presumed to be his final NHL contract.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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