Why the NHL is playing games in Australia, and where is next

As an American visiting Australia for the first time, Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller had a simple request.

"I want to see a kangaroo," he said.

Keller is in Melbourne with the Coyotes for their NHL Global Series preseason games against the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24 (12 a.m. ET, ESPN+) at Rod Laver Arena. He got his wish this week during a visit to a local zoo with his teammates: Coyotes, watching kangaroos, shouting in amazement as one bounded around its habitat.

David Proper, the NHL's senior EVP of media and international strategy, had a similar request during his first trip Down Under -- except his exotic animal of choice was a koala.

"The first time I went to Australia to meet with our partners for the games, I said there are two things I need to do: I need to tour Rod Laver Arena and I need to see a koala," he said.

"And so we toured the arena. That was easy. And then I said, 'OK, let's go see a koala now.' And they said, 'OK, we'll just go to the zoo.' And, like, I can go to the zoo back home and see a koala. I wanted to see packs of roaming koalas. They're apparently nowhere near Melbourne," he said, laughing.

For the NHL, there's been a lot of perception vs. reality leading up to the league's first games in Australia.