The Rangers announced today that their preseason slate of games will include a match against HC Sparta Prague on September 29th.
The Blueshirts alerted the media with a stark press release while Sparta held a press conference. The Czech side finished 12th in the Extraliga Ledního Hokeje table (out of 14) last season so they also debuted a new coach, one of the assistants on the Czech national team. During their disappointing campaign Marty Rucinsky and Jan Hlavac both played nine games for them while former Blue Jacket David Vyborny was around for most of the schedule. Rucinsky was traded away early and, from what I can tell, Hlavac came over from Sweden midseason. The team, which is over 100 years old, has a very classical sounding song sung by the fans but they did have a tribute rock song written by a local band. So they have that going for them.
The Sparta website mentioned that the Rangers are expected to arrive on the 27th of September but that could very well change. Regardless, this is the first fixture to be announced and certainly not the last. Seeing as the Blueshirts don't open the NHL regular season until October 7th, they will certainly fit in another exhibition game or two after this one. My personal hope is for one in Oslo, Norway and another in Gothenberg, Sweden. Oslo, however, might be out of the question unless they can get one of the other NHL teams to play against them there - the Norwegian league isn't particularly good but you never know; the Bruins played Belfast last year.
Where the Rangers games against the Lightning back in '08 took place in the O2 Arena in Prague, this exhibition will take place in Sparta's building, the Tesla Arena. The capacity is 12,950, about 5,000 less than the other venue. Tickets will cost 600 CZK ($40) to 1,300 CZK ($80) and will be on sale in mid-May.
Scotty doesn't know (!) if he will be there for the whole thing but he does know that he had to make that gag in this post. And that is the last time I will refer to myself in the third person. As of this moment, the Rangers' ticket reps have no info in regards to tickets to the Stockholm games, which went on sale in Sweden a few weeks back - much less those of this one. In 2008 the Rangers did not release Prague tickets to their U.S. fans - you had to buy trip packages from the team that cost as much as a season ticket in the Garden. I ended up catching the two preseason efforts in Bern, Switzerland before heading to the Czech beer garden in Queens to watch the games against the Lightning. Hopefully that won't happen this time around, stay tuned.