New Jersey Devils defenseman Johnny Oduya won't physically be in Stockholm for the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 games between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators next weekend, but he will be there in spirit.
"You should have a great time," Oduya told NHL.com upon learning that his interviewer was making the trip for the games, which will be played next Saturday and Sunday as the NHL opens the regular season abroad for the second-straight season.
When not in New Jersey, Oduya still calls Stockholm home. He played for Djurgarden, a Stockholm-based Elitserien team, for two years before making the move to North America three years ago. Oduya also played one year for Gothenberg-based Frolunda, an Elitserien team that will host Ottawa in an exhibition game next week.
"Stockholm is a beautiful old city," Oduya said. "What we have is a lot of nice, small islands in the harbor. You can take small boat trips and go have lunch or dinner. There are different boat restaurants all around the waterfront area. Usually that's a summer thing, but in early October the weather still shouldn't be that bad. You should still be able to take the boats."
Food is always an important consideration when traveling abroad, and Oduya says that visitors will not be disappointed by Stockholm's culinary scene, which goes far beyond Swedish meatballs, artsoppa (pea soup) and pannkakor (pancakes). Fresh seafood is a staple to the Swedish diet, with herring and salmon leading the parade.
"I'm a big salmon fan, and you can get it prepared in so many different ways," Oduya said.
If you want to experience traditional Swedish food, Oduya says it is best to do so at lunch.
"You can get a good, traditional Swedish meal at most of the restaurants then and it not too expensive -- $15 or $20," says Oduya. "For me, when I am home, I like to take advantage of the lunch menus."
But like most major cities, Stockholm is about more than food.
There should be plenty of "must-do visits" on any tourist's itinerary, Oduya says.
"One of the biggest tourist attractions is 'old town,' an area with a lot of small, narrow streets, some good restaurants and souvenir shops," Oduya said.
Old town is the original Stockholm, first settled in the 1300s. Most of the buildings date from the 1800s, and Oduya says it is a nice insight into the history of the city. The centerpiece of that history is the Royal Castle, a 605-room behemoth that is the biggest castle in the world still in active use by a king.
Shopping is also a highlight of any visit to the city. Oduya recommends the Biblioteksgaten, a small, street lined with upscale shops and small cafes.
For nightlife, Oduya recommends a visit to Stureplan, an area known as the main downtown area of the city that is a little less touristy than old town. It is filled with a wide variety of nightclubs and restaurants and usually draws the celebrity portion of Swedish society.
Oduya also recommends a boat trip to Djurgarden, one of the many islands that make up the city. It is known for its lush green spaces and many parks.
"There's not many people that live on Djurgarden," Oduya said. "It is more of a recreational island for the people of Stockholm. It's a nice place to walk around and there is an amusement park and other attractions there."
The amusement park is called Grona Lund, but it closes at the end of September. There are also several museums worth visiting on the island. But in the end, Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 is about the hockey and, once again, Oduya says that visitors won't be disappointed in the Globen Arena, home to the two games.
"It's a good place to see a hockey game, even though it is getting a little older," Oduya said. "They built it for the World Championships almost 20 years ago, but it is still a good building. The fans are excited and it should be a great atmosphere for those games. I know the people there are excited for the games."