When players get their day with the Stanley Cup, they always, without exception, take it back to where they started. Square one. The four Swedish members of the Chicago Blackhawks who had a date with the Cup this summer gladly continued that tradition.
Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya greeted the Stanley Cup at the Stockholm airport Sunday then rushed it to a dinner with family and friends, guys he's played with since he was a kid. By 10 the following morning, he was hoisting the Cup in Zinkensdamm, his childhood rink in downtown Stockholm, just like he used to hoist red pylons as a child, imagining this moment would come someday.
After that, Oduya took the Cup to the outdoor rink next door, where hundreds of people lined up to take photos with the most iconic trophy in sports.
"I hope that seeing the Cup will inspire them. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I saw the Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame, maybe 12, but I remember it was cool," Oduya told Hockeysverige.se.
That night, Oduya took over as disc jockey at Stockholm's Soap Bar, where teammate Marcus Kruger gave the Cup a primer on Stockholm night life. The following morning, the Cup was posing for photos again, this time at Kruger's childhood rink in Huddinge, a suburb of Stockholm.
From there, the Cup boarded flight 161 to Gothenburg, a city that would host hockey's ultimate prize for the first time. It was there Viktor Stalberg, a champion with the Blackhawks who signed over the summer with the Nashville Predators, got his day with the Cup. When Stalberg lifted the Cup out of its case, Mikkey Dee, drummer for the heavy metal band Motorhead and a Gothenburg native, stopped and asked for a photo.
Stalberg then took the Cup to a Frolunda Indians hockey game, the local golf course, a children’s hospital, and his father's clothing store. The final stop of the day was Bar Himmel, where guests, including Dee, attended one final party with the Cup.
The trophy's last stop in Sweden was a familiar one: the small village of Russnas. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson brought the Cup here when he won it in 2010. Then, Hjalmarsson lost his voice the first night, which made giving speeches the next day exceedingly difficult. This time, he was slightly jet lagged, having returned from his honeymoon in Singapore and Bali the day before the Cup's arrival.
"The best part of having the Cup here is that I can share it with everybody," said Hjalmarsson, who arrived to his event on the back of a wagon pulled by a tractor.
The day's festivities included taking the Cup to Hjalmarsson's hockey school and to the opening of an inline rink he financed.
After that, it was time for a bigger celebration in the slightly bigger town of Eksjo. Thousands gathered at the market square, where Hjalmarsson walked onto the stage and hoisted the Cup wearing his youth team’s blue jersey. As he was greeted by a cheering crowd, a local band played the Blackhawks' signature goal song, "Chelsea Dagger" by the Fratellis.
While Hjalmarsson danced with the Cup above his head, the band launched into a special, Swedish version of the song, its lyrics carrying extra significance on this special day:
"Many long years have passed, but we have never lost faith. Now you've returned home."
--- Risto Pakarinen - NHL.com Correspondent