The most of NHL outside-of-North-America games were played in Europe, and the League started to show the North American hockey to European public 80 years ago already. You can read about all the European tours in my previous posts about Original Six and Expansion Era and Modern NHL. But also there were some exhibition games in more unusual as for hockey destinations like Asian and Caribbean countries. Four times NHL teams visited Japan and once visited China (exhibition games in this country scheduled this year also).
The history of NHL Asian Games begins with the 1976 Kansas City Scouts - Washington Capitals Japanese tour. Both teams joined the League in 1974 and their performance in the first two seasons was very bad, however, they were selected to bring the NHL’s hockey to Japan. The teams were free of Playoffs games and played four exhibition matches on April 14-18, 1976 in Sapporo (2 games) and Tokyo (2 games). Scouts had a long losing streak at the end of the regular season and continued it in the unofficial games in Japan - they lost the first three games to Capitals. The series was lost, but the Scouts won the last game in Tokyo, what also meant this team won their last game ever. For the next NHL season, Kansas City Scouts relocated to Colorado and became the Colorado Rockies.
NHL came back to Japan 21 year later, in 1997. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim played two games against Vancouver Canucks in Tokyo, Japan on October 4-5, and those games were the season-opening ones. NHL opened the regular season outside of North America for the first time, earlier than in Europe. Each team won one game with 3-2 score. Interesting, that the Yoyogi National Stadium where the games were played is the former Olympic swimming pool which was converted to an ice hockey arena especially for the NHL Japanese games.
A year later, in 1998, another West Coast team San Jose Sharks faced another Canadian team Calgary Flames in a new edition of the Japanese games. Both Flames and Sharks didn’t have such stars as Paul Kariya (Mighty Ducks) or Mark Messier (Canucks) and didn’t have connections with Asia like the teams year ago, so this choice was a little bit unobvious. Two games were played at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo as a year ago, and they also were season-opening games for the teams. The first game was tied 3-3 (yes, tied games still existed in hockey in 1997) and the second one was won 5-3 by the Calgary Flames.
The next NHL season opened in Japan was 2000-2001 season. On October 7 and 8 Nashville Predators played two games against Pittsburgh Penguins. Each of the teams won one game with the same score 3-1 as Mighty Ducks and Canucks in 1997. But the place changed, the games were played no more at the former swimming pool Yoyogi National Stadium, the NHL Japanese games relocated to the modern Saitama Super Arena opened the same year in the Saitama Prefecture close to Tokyo.
The NHL hockey still hasn’t returned to Japan for any game, but in 2017 the League visited a new Asian country. Last fall the inaugural NHL China Games took place in Shanghai and Beijing where Vancouver Canucks played two exhibition games against Los Angeles Kings. The Kings won both games. China will host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, they develop their winter sports and interested in hockey, too. There were some additional events in both cities like fan fests and events for children.
The same Chinese Games are scheduled for Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames on September 15 and 19, 2018. They will play two preseason games in Shenzhen and Beijing.