Watching the NHL’s Global Games from Stockholm, you can’t help but reflect on what that country has brought to the game of hockey. Camera shots around the arena have shown the greatness of Lidstrom, Forsberg, Kronwall, Alfredsson, Sundin and Lundqvist.
Obviously, the triumphant career and tragic life of Borje Salming has been a focal point with this trip — a TV series on Salming premiered on Tuesday night and the Borje Salming Award for Courage was awarded to Red Wing legend Nick Lidstrom.
Fifty years after Salming became a Maple Leaf, the other city that quickly embraced the Swedes and the way they played the game was Winnipeg. While Salming and Hammarstrom were the first, it was Winnipeg that embraced more. And it made a difference here … and still does.
Whether it be the WHA Jets, the original NHL Jets or this current version of the team, this city has embraced Swedish-born players for decades. This has been such a welcoming city that way.
Who can forget “the Little General” Lars Erik Sjoberg, big d-man Thommie Bergman, and Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson when they played with the Golden Jet? Remember Willy Lindstrom streaking down the wing and the patience of Thomas Steen, who has proudly made Winnipeg his home.
Guys like Toby Enstrom and Johnny Oduya played here … and even today, it looks like David Gustafsson and Axel Jonsson-Fjalby will be in the lineup Friday in the game against Buffalo.
There will always be a bond between Winnipeg and the Swedes. The two will always have such a fantastic link. A bond that every Jets team has promoted, while many others didn’t. A bond that begins with the love of hockey.