Thursday, January 31, 2008

The NHL Comes to Stockholm

Shit yes. The NHL is opening the 2008-2009 season in Stockholm, Sweden. October 4th and 5th. I live in Stockholm, Sweden. I enjoy the NHL. It’s like they knew. I’m pumped. This came out a few days ago. But the season will open with Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh.

A few years ago when I was doing my study abroad at Uppsala a few of us got together and went to a Toronto Maple Leafs practice that was held before the season here in Stockholm. At Globen. Mats Sundin is a Maple Leaf. He is also a Swede. That’s all it took apparently to bring out a pretty solid crowd. For a practice. I can’t even imagine what a game would be like.

It was quite the international group at Globen. Actually, our group was mostly just some Americans and Canadians. But come on. Our resident Canadian was informing us about all the players who came from his area of Canada. It was a glorious afternoon. And Canadian flags were waving as the ex-pats welcomed their canuck brethren. That's canuck with a lowercase C in this case so as not to be confused with the Vancouver Canucks. Who, as a general rule, suck. I love that about international sporting events though. Even something as benign as a practice brings out the patriotism and the flags.

Let me explain what it means to have Senators and the Penguins open the season. First, and probably most important to the Swedes, it means Daniel Alfredsson. Who is Swedish. And who is having an absolutely spectacular season. Leading the league in points. He also managed to rack up seven points in a game just the other day. That’s not bad. Considering hockey tends to be a relatively low scoring affair. It also means though that Sidney Crosby is coming to Stockholm. He of the baby face. He of the C on his jersey. He of the incredible puck handling skills. He of 20 years of age. He that is just a bit older than my youngest brother. What have you done lately NBDC? Not made millions of dollars and broken records, I’ll tell you that much. Man up huh?

Sidney Crosby scored over 100 points in his rookie campaign. He followed that with 120. He is the future of the NHL. NHL sports marketing executives have wet dreams about his potential. It’s a little frightening. But true. And what better way to spread the gospel that is the NHL but by sending a good looking, charismatic, all-star to Sweden, an already hockey crazed country? There is no better way. Say what you will about the NHL in the US losing fans, the lockout killing them, no one watching on TV. You are wrong. They are studs at making money. And building buzz.

They play outside. They have deals with YouTube. They play overseas. They upgrade the All-Star game. The NHL might not draw the crowds and TV-viewers like the NFL does. But hockey in America is anything but dead.

And, as strange as it may seem, taking hockey games overseas, actually helps the league in the US. It creates buzz. It makes people think. It brings hockey into the conversation. And that’s just good publicity. Plus it allows me to see some good old American professional sports. Hopefully. I need tickets.


  1. funny. i read your last piece about not knowing who Terry was. Don't worry - me either. Moved to sverige from CA in 2000 - I have not and apparently will not get into Swedish soccer, handball, bandy, etc etc. You are way ahead of me because of your NHL knowledge - I interviewed Zetterberg for an article a while back and have to admit not really knowing who he was. shameful.
    anyhow, nice blog - keep it up... mine's at andersporter DOT com if you're interested -

  2. I always keep wondering why those American and Canadian NHL stars, who make wonderful goals there, are mostly so lame when they play in WM hockey tournaments. Except for Rick Nash maybe. Is the field too big for them, too much skating? LOL

    Isn't it so that a Finn, Teemu Selänne still has the record of points made during the first year (rookie) in NHL?

    In the 70's, we valued high NHL stars like Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull, but we never actually saw them play. Funny, isn't it?!

  3. Smek this- The bigger VM-rinks can be a part of the explanation but a lot of Swedish players also play in the NHL and they mostly rock! Maybe it also has to do a bit with different playing styles? but Canada is always good, so I don't know what you mean there... As for USA, yeah, they usually stink at the world cups. But that's not so surprising, like you said they have some wonderful hockey players in NHL but so has a lot of countries, many countries even got a lot of even more wonderful hockey players in NHL. I mean, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Czech republic (not sure about that, though...) etc.

  4. Feels like I should respond :)

    Yes, European NHL players rock in WM cup, but not American. It's usually those 'unknown' stars that score most goals there. How many goals did Gretzky do in World championships or Olympics? He was there, at least once. Canada is always good, USA sometimes. I get the feeling NHL stars are afraid to participate WM because someone with a 0.1% of his salary might humiliate him totally. Now would that look good to him! LOL

  5. @ anders - I've got to ask. How do you get a job where you can interview hockey players? and it's amazing isn't it. the different sports here. I try to watch the, I try to read about them, I try to get into them. But I can't.

    @ smek - well, I won't try to defend the American players because hockey tends to not be their sport. there are some solid ones, but no one who makes you turn your head. but the Canadians. they do good work.

    and you're right. Teemu's rookie year wil probably not be surpassed for a long time.

    In defense of American hockey, Sweden and Finland both have had some historic choke jobs in big competitions. It is interesting though to see. But, for th emost part, it seems that most NHL players are willing to step up and play in the international competitions. Regardless of nationality. Which I appreciate. Always cool to see your big stars playing under one flag.

  6. I think its brilliant that the NHL will bring a game to Sweden.
    With the NHL, what do you think of the outdoor game that they recently had in in buffalo? Could they pull that off in Rasunda?

    Also Hairy Swede, since you are a big reader of SI....currently at least one Swede (all hockey players and great article on Lidstrom)has been mentioned for three straights issues of SI...A few years ago I counted 8 straight issues with at least one Swede mentioned. Keep your eye out!

  7. I love the outdoor games. I remember the first time they did it I was studying abroad in Uppsala and a bunch of my buddies were up int he middle of the night watching it in our corridor. Beautiful. I'd love to see something like that here in Sweden. Whether it's the NHL or Elitserien doesn't matter to me.

    And I love that SI is giving some press to the Swedes. I remember early in Forsbergs career where he was making his way in there just about every other week. Good times.