There is a chance the Mighty Ducks will open the 1996-97 season in Japan as part of the NHL’s efforts to take its popularity global.
The league is considering sending two teams to Japan for a two-game season-opening series, and the Disney-owned Ducks are at the top of the list because of potential tie-ins with Tokyo Disneyland and the appeal of Duck star Paul Kariya, a Canadian of Japanese descent.
“We’ve made it known that if there are going to be games played in Japan, we’re interested,” said Mighty Duck General Manager Jack Ferreira. “We’d like to do it, and we’ve let the league know it because of the park and because of Paul.”
Arthur Pincus, the NHL’s vice president for public relations, said the Ducks would be a prime contender to play in Japan.
“We would look to teams on the West Coast first because of the easier travel and also because of the larger concentration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast,” Pincus said.
The Vancouver Canucks would be another likely candidate.
The NHL sent the Winnipeg Jets to Finland for an exhibition series last season, taking advantage of the popularity of Teemu Selanne, who is Finnish.
Sweden and Germany are other sites being considered for exhibition games, but Japan is being targeted for regular-season games--perhaps as a test run for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, when NHL players are expected to take part for the first time.