Dylan Larkin has plenty of experience with Swedes.
The Detroit Red Wings captain has suited up alongside the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist in the past, while rising star Lucas Raymond now plays on his line.
Larkin had never been to the Scandinavian country before this week. He also knew all about it.
“I’ve been to Finland a lot for world championships,” Larkin, a Michigan native, said before the season. “Played with a lot of Swedes. They’re kind of like guys from Minnesota.
“They think it’s the best place on earth. I’m excited to see it for myself.”
The Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild are in Stockholm this week for the latest round of NHL Global Series games.
Ottawa and Detroit open up Thursday at Avicii Arena before the Leafs play the Wings some 24 hours later. The Senators and Wild then meet Saturday. Minnesota goes right back at it Sunday against Toronto.
The points count in the standings, but the Swedes on each roster are also eager to have their teammates dive into some of their country’s culture.
“Something I’ve been looking forward to since you heard about it the first time,” Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg said. “I’m super pumped to show everyone what Sweden is about.”
“It’s going to be really special,” added Leafs defenceman John Klingberg.
There are also challenges that come with crossing an ocean.
When to leave North America for European games was a topic of conversation in the NFL this season. Some teams departed earlier, while other chose to fly closer to kickoff.
“I don’t think anyone’s really mastered it yet in the NFL,” said blueliner Morgan Rielly, whose Leafs flew to Sweden on Monday night. “When you go over for world championships there’s time change, different food, different everything, but the games don’t really matter for the first couple of weeks.
“For us, you’re going over there, you’re playing two games and you’re coming back. You want to make it worth your while.”
Toronto captain John Tavares said the club’s sport science team prepared players before heading across the Atlantic Ocean.
“Stuff that our organization is on top of to maximize,” he said. “We want to enjoy the experience … something unique and different you don’t do every year.”
Senators captain Brady Tkachuk added he’s especially excited for the families of the team’s Swedish players – Forsberg and defenceman Erik Brannstrom.
“Normally they wouldn’t be able to watch NHL hockey (in person),” Tkachuk said. “Special memory for them.”
Winter Classic on deck
The Seattle Kraken are set to play the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 1 at T-Mobile Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Mariners, in the 2024 Winter Classic. “There’s a real buzz in town for the hockey team,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said of his third-year club. “This is just another step for us.”
Ouellette trumpets PWHL
Caroline Ouellette won’t get a chance to suit up in the Professional Women’s Hockey League, but the four-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada is proud of the path she and other players blazed. “Gonna be fun to see the best Canadians with the best Americans with the best of Europeans playing together, battling against each other,” said Ouellette, the 10th woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week. “We have great leaders behind it.”
Hall call in 2024?
Ouellette was enshrined along with Henrik Lundqvist, Mike Vernon, Tom Barrasso and Pierre Turgeon in the player category, while former NHL coach Ken Hitchcock and the late Pierre Lacroix, who was both an agent and executive, went in as builders. Some of the names that could be called in 2024 include Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Marleau in their first years of eligibility. Alexander Mogilny, who retired in 2006 and once scored 76 goals in a season, remains a curious omission, while women’s players Meghan Duggan and Jennifer Botterill should also be in the conversation.
NHL Players’ Association executive director Marty Walsh wants to see “more action” on the Arizona Coyotes’ arena situation. Voters in Tempe, Ariz., rejected a plan to build a new rink back in the spring. Walsh said there hasn’t been much movement on the file since from the league. “These are NHL hockey players that should be playing in a good arena,” he said. “Like, come up with a plan.” The Coyotes currently reside in by far the NHL’s smallest facility – the 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University. “If you come up with a plan, we can support it,” Walsh said. “But right now, there’s been no plan, no conversation. “That’s to me showing that there’s no urgency on their side.”