The Globe and Mail reports that the National Hockey League is aiming to have teams based in Europe within the next 10 years.
"As time goes on, you'll see us making increasing movement into Europe," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the newspaper. "Certainly, it's a possibility that within 10 years time we will be playing games there."
The league has already experimented with games overseas with exhibition games in Europe in the early 1990s and regular season games in Japan prior to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano. The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings played in London, England last year, while four more teams - the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins - will play in Europe next month.
Daly added that while further exposure in Europe was a possibility, there are no guarantees of it happening. "I think it's a long way between here and there," he told the Globe and Mail. "And I think all the pieces have to continue to line up in order for that to happen. So, certainly, we would hope that would be the case. But I can't say with any degree of certainty at this point."
NHL expansion into Europe has been talked about for years and has has been hot debate among the league's executives.
"(European) cities do a good job for international hockey tournaments, but can those cities afford NHL prices for 42 regular-season games plus playoffs?" Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told the Globe. "I don't know the answer, but if they can, then at some point there will be expansion in Europe. But first we have to expand a couple more teams back into Canada, get back into Winnipeg and put another team in Ontario before we see expansion to Europe."
National Hockey League Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly said he was open to the idea of European expansion, with the proviso that the NHL's North American franchises were stabilized.
"Once we reach that point, I do think we should at least explore the process of perhaps one day having a division of NHL teams based in Europe," he told the Globe.
Files from The Globe and Mail were used for this report.