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Outside of North America, what time zone is the best to watch NHL hockey?
Welcome back to the Stack! It's been quite some time since I wrote anything here. Let's change that with a funny little experiment I pondered about while traveling around the world. Yeah, time zones.
I have this regular feature over at Defending Big D called Around The Stars Universe. What started as an emptying of my notebook about the Dallas Stars organization turned out to be a pretty good motivator to sit at least once a week and write something of a somewhat value for all of the good readers of DBD.
And hey, sometimes I hit the contract projection jackpot, too.
Well, that was until my traveling schedule turned that organized routine into a mere utopia. I'm not complaining though. For the past five or six weeks, we've traveled throughout South-East Asia, visiting some extraordinary places in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam or Malaysia during that span.
And while traveling with a two-year old might turn your schedule into a havoc, it might give you also a chance to do what is truly important, like spending quality time with your family outside of your comfort zone and also provide perspective on life in general.
So far, I haven't been fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of time on US soil and watch my favourite team, Dallas Stars play in the US Central Time Zone for an extended period of time. A closest experience to that was during the vacation in Cancun, Mexico I really envy all you Stars fans for the ability to watch the game when it's supposed to be watched – in the primetime. As the matter of fact, I envy all of the US sports fans for their ability to follow their teams without any sleeping issues, well until the game goes into fifth overtime or something.
But since I do these two things pretty consistently, travel and follow Dallas Stars hockey I wondered about this: Apart from being directly in the United States, or Canada, what is the best timezone to be in and watch the Stars (or any NHL game for that matter) live?
Consider this as some sort of “best from the rest” type of a list. I'll recap some of my experiences of watching the games from around the world and you be the judge of what time zone outside of North America would actually work the best for you.
First one is the obvious one.
Central European time zone
(+7 hours to Dallas, TX)
I've lived most of my adult life in two places: Bratislava, Slovakia and Madrid, Spain. Apart from the already canceled direct Ryanair flight connection, what these two cities actually share is the same time zone, even though Madrid is situated further west than for example London, a city with the a one hour time difference compared to Slovakia and all of the central part of Europe.
Yeah, sounds weird, but the more you know, right?
Both Madrid and Bratislava are seven hours ahead of Dallas, TX time, which means that the usual home game starts at 2:30 AM (7:30 PM local time). That is directly in the middle of the night, which makes it hard to stay up for and possibly even harder to wake up to. This time zone also applies to other hockey countries like Finland, Sweden, Czechia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland but also France or Italy.
When Dallas plays Pacific Division teams on the Western road trip it actually works better for us, European fans, as the games start around 4:00 AM and sometimes even at 4:30 AM. That means if you wake up at 5:00 AM you can still pretty much watch the full game live without missing the crucial part of your sleeping time. Mostly because the games NEVER start on time, which is extremely excruciating when you are waiting and trying not to fall asleep when waiting for that puck drop.
Trust me, every minute counts, haha.
The first thing I usually look up when the schedule for the new season comes out is the number of times Dallas plays an afternoon game. That means if the game starts around 1:00 PM or even 3:00 PM local time, you might have a chance to catch it during the actual television primetime in Europe. As fate (or karma?) would have it, sometimes that means you (okay, me) actually make some other plans, as it is most probably a weekend night. Oftentimes I missed the Stars game live, because it was played in a too-good time for me. You know, personal life and stuff matters, too.
Having spent some time in London and in Portugal as well, you are one hour closer to the US Central time zone. That one hour doesn't make that much of a difference to me, truth to be told. The only exception is…when the daylight savings time applies.
I swear, I didn't know Europe and the US have different dates for daylight saving time change and it was one of the most weird things to realize, many years back.
What that means is for around two weeks in March and maybe one week in October/November the time differences actually vary. During the spring time, a typical Dallas Stars home game starts for the European fans one hour later (3:30 AM in CET) and during autumn it's the other way around (1:30 AM in CET).
If you find yourself in London during March for example and the Stars are playing in Los Angeles or Vancouver, you might be able to catch a game officially set to start at 6:00 AM or even 6:30 AM. If you are a fan of an Eastern Conference team, you are probably more in favor of the daylight savings time ending in the fall. All that because a typical game you watch could start already at midnight instead of 1:00 AM. And believe me, it's not everything about when the game starts. Mostly it's about when it actually ends.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates time zone
(+10 hours to Dallas, TX)
I've been to Dubai on numerous occasions and everytime the hockey season was on. It shouldn't surprise you the slightest though, as Dubai is really inhabitable during the summer with the temperatures often going beyond 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
For me, the games start at the optimal time, usually around 5:30 - 6:00 AM. That means you get enough of a night's sleep if you go to bed early and still can catch most (if not all) of the games you want to watch. My morning routine in Dubai was to wake up around 5 AM, do some little grocery shopping and while the game was on, prepare some breakfast and then just enjoy your morning coffee while watching Stars hockey. Ideal.
This timezone also applies for an exotic place really close to my heart — Seychelles.
India / Nepal time zone
(+11h30m /+11h45m to Dallas, TX)
This one is a bit tricky and I'll explain why. I was in India during winter time in late 2018 but I really don't have any special memories waching the NHL from over there.
Now as for the actual special memories, how about a 18 hour train ride from Váránasí to Agra (Taj Mahal)? To show you how big of a hockey nerd I am, I've shortened the travel time with this Dallas Stars book by.
Nepal is a country where I spent two weeks during the Stars playoff run in 2019. Most of you, loyal readers of this Substack might remember a certain bus ride. Most of the Stars fans will remember the John Klingberg series-winning goal against Nashville.
Why is it tricky then?
Well, first of all, look at one of my coldest takes ever, at least when it comes to article headlines (it's about that certain bus ride).
Second of all, Nepal is 15 minutes further than India when it comes to time difference. Yeah, you heard that right. 15 minutes!
My brain froze couple of times until I learned how to count what time is it in Slovakia, not to mention in the United States during my time in Nepal. But the time zone was actually pretty okay to watch some Stars hockey, as the typical home game would start at around 7:15 AM. Given I watched mostly playoff games there, it was sometime between 6:45 AM - 7:45 AM when the game would actually start.
Thailand, Laos, Vietnam time zone
(+13 hours to Dallas, TX)
So this is where things get pretty interesting. And also come from two different perspectives — one as a parent and one as a non-parent.
Enjoying breakfast in Thailand with an amazing view of the sea and watching Kari Lehtonen stand on his head and the Dallas Stars to force the game seven in 2016 against the St.Louis Blues was one of the greatest times of being a Stars fan. For the sake of my mental clarity, we will not talk about what happened after that.
Having experienced a similar time zone for the last month or so, I have to admit a bombshell. Life is much different when you have a baby. Mornings are the times when your child (or at least mine) is the most active and being on holidays, you also want to make the most out of the day before it gets too late or too hot. Or both.
But when you have some downtime or dare I say, time off…it's actually pretty neat to watch the game in the mornings. Or at least to follow the score on-the-go and not just waking up to the final result, as most of the European NHL fans do.
Malaysia, Indonesia time zone
(+14 hours to Dallas, TX)
You might have noticed me saying that the one hour difference from being in London compared to say Prague or Bratislava doesn't make that much of a difference. Well, here the one hour change does, at least to me. I don't know why. But having the game start at 9:30 AM instead of 8:30 AM feels like a much deeper cut to your daily schedule than when you compare 1:30 AM start time to a 2:30 AM one, because you are not getting you an appropriate sleep anyway, so who cares.
It also means that the Western Pacific road trip which is pretty positively set time-wise if you're located in Europe (considering the options) is now played through the lunch time. Having the Stars game finishing in the early afternoon is something so strange for me, it will take some time getting used to.
But hey, let's insert some cliché here. Anytime the Stars win it feels the same, no matter the time zone. Unfortunately, the same goes for when they lose. Okay, well maybe you can stomach a loss with a view like this better than waking up to a dreary, rainy winter morning in Slovakia.
There are some timezones I didn't mention for a) I haven't been there, b) I simply cannot recall watching Stars game from a given timezone or c) I wanted this piece to be more easily digestible, reader-wise.
I could have mentioned my time in Oahu, Hawaii but it's US soil and this exercise excluded those.
Maybe more importantly, I was there in February 2017 and if you remember, it was one of those miserable seasons when the Stars were downright bad, had players like Lauri Korpikoski as NHL regulars and most of all, were losing left and right when I was there. There was a blessing in disguise there though, as Jim Nill actively sold some key pieces like Patrick Eaves during that year which among other things materialized into Jake Oettinger pick. So all good, then. We don't need to go further on how special that 2017 Draft Class has become for the Dallas Stars organization.
I also did have a reply on my tweet from an Australian Stars fan who actually prefers their time zone (+17 hours!) and is regularly having some live Stars Hockey for lunch.
So to answer my initial question. What timezone (outside of the US) is actually the best?
For me, it's the Middle East one. Having the game start very early in the morning is great for my morning routine and helps me wake up while my sleeping schedule is not exploding. Game finishes and you still have all of the day pretty much ahead of you, which bodes well if you want the day to be as productive as possible.
I'll let you decide which one of these time zones (or maybe even some other I didn't mention) would you prefer the most.
More importantly though, I hope you enjoyed this funny little stroll across the time zones. Maybe not quite Around The Stars Universe, but around the world for sure.
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