Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews is pushing for the NHL to play exhibition or pre-season games in Mexico City, Mexico and it sounds like NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is open to the suggestion.
"I was saying a couple years ago, 'How cool would it be to just play an exhibition game in Mexico City?'" Toronto Maple Leafs star center Auston Matthews, who is of Mexican heritage, recently told ESPN. "It'd be awesome to literally play a hockey game in Mexico and just see what happens."
"My background, with my mom being Mexican, I'm really proud of where I come from and my heritage," Matthews said. "Obviously, we'd be traveling quite a ways and it'd be a lot for a preseason game, but I don't know, that was the first thing that came to mind when somebody brought this kind of topic up to me."
It would certainly take a Herculean effort to make it happen, but is it all that different from when teams fly to Sweden, Finland or the Czech Republic for the start of the NHL season? Remember a few years back when the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins all flew to China to start the season? Certainly if they can do that, they can head just south of the American border?
"We had started hearing from our clubs that they'd love to play a game in Mexico," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said to ESPN. "The more we can appeal to more demographics, countries and culturally diverse areas, the better it is for us."
The Dallas Stars held hockey clinics for children in Mexico City in 2019 and retired NHL netminder Al Montoya, the first player of Cuban descent in NHL history, was blown away by the potential of the Latino hockey market. However, he feels that players like himself and Matthews, those with ties to the Latino community, need to be more involved if the NHL is to make inroads in Mexico.
"You can't reach us without us," Montoya said. "Representation is everything. I didn't see anyone like me growing up. People have so many [entertainment] options nowadays. We have to stop relying on people wanting to choose hockey on their own. We have to go to where they are."