After the success of the NHL Global Series heading to Australia, the league has announced that Mexico City is on the shortlist of cities to get an international NHL game.
Last season, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings even mentioned the possibility when asked about future NHL destinations.
Chances are that this isn’t an idea the NHL came up with overnight but it’s one teams like the Arizona Coyotes would love.
Soccer reigns supreme south of the border in Mexico regarding sports. Baseball is pretty popular as well. However, “ice hockey” might be as far from Mexico’s national pastime as you can get.
The NHL is considering having a Global Series game in Mexico City.
American sports leagues have ventured into Mexico to drum up international fandom. The San Diego Padres played Major League Baseball’s first game in Mexico against the New York Mets in 1996 and MLB returned during 2018, 2019, and 2023. The Padres even made it a point to include the Mexican region of Baja California on their “city connect” jerseys.
The NBA has been playing in Mexico since 1992 when two Texas teams (the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets) played. The most interesting thing is that most of the NBA’s Mexican games have been played in Mexico City, the same city Larkin mentioned.
Mexico City even hosts an NBA G-League (NBA’s development league) team called the Capitanes de Ciudad de México.
The NFL has also had regular season games in Mexico since the 2005 season and as recently as the 2022 season, although the league confirmed there will be no Mexican game in 2023.
So it would appear the NHL is late to the Mexican professional sports league party. Gary Bettman did came from and modeled much of his NHL business from the NBA. It’s a little surprising the NHL didn’t consider a Mexican game sometime sooner.
Then again, there’s no organic link between ice hockey and Mexico, unlike the other three major professional sports. The country of almost 130 million people only has 1,232 registered players and joined the IIHF in 1985.
If the NHL wants to head to Mexico City, they next need to find a venue. The arena they used in Australia was a converted indoor tennis arena. The league might even consider an outdoor venue for a potential Mexican game.
The Mexico City Arena (Arena CDMX) fits the bill. The NBA has used this arena in its recent Mexican ventures, including using it as the home of the Capitanes de Ciudad de México. No ice hockey game has been held in the arena that opened in 2012.
According to Kevin Baxter of the LA Times, the only three ice rinks in Mexico City are in shopping malls. The Mexico City Arena might not be the best fit for a hockey game. For example, sightlines might be terrible, but if the NBA can make it work, so can the NHL.
What teams would head south of the border to face off? The logical choice is the Los Angeles Kings who have already tried to make a foothold in the market. The Arizona Coyotes would make sense as well.
A Mexican fan base could do a lot of good for the Arizona team that has struggled to find fans. For an imperfect comparison, huge crowds of fans cross the border to watch the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB play when they visit Seattle.
Even if they choose to watch from home, there’s sure to be money made from television and streaming deals.
ESPN also noted that both the Kings and Dallas Stars have held hockey camps in Mexico City, as well as Auston Matthews being of Latino heritage is a potential draw. Does that mean we can see the Toronto Maple Leafs head south of not one but two international borders?
Let’s think completely out of the box and look at AHL franchises. San Diego sports teams, like the already mentioned Padres and the former San Diego Chargers, both played games in Mexico.
Maybe the AHL’s San Diego Gulls would draw some interest south of the border. Then again, a minor league team wouldn’t draw the interest of an NHL team and the potential revenue more international fans would bring.
At this point, we’re convinced the NHL will test out the Mexican market in some capacity. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when. A full-blown expansion team seems out of the question, however, much to the relief of Quebec City hockey fans.