Blues forward Alex Steen is returning to his native country for the season-opening games in Stockholm (Getty Images).
St. Louis center Alex Steen wasn't sure who would want tickets to the Compuware NHL Premiere in Stockholm or how many he would need, so he estimated it at 30 and figured he was safe in asking for that many.
So far so good. But as the days tick off the calendar, the games between Steen's Blues and the Detroit Red Wings at the Ericsson Globe get closer and closer -- and that means more and more friends and family inevitably will come out of hiding begging for a ticket.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Steen, a rare Swedish Canadian playing in the NHL, said he's ready to do whatever he can to secure as many tickets as he may need for his friends and family back home in Sweden.
Better yet, he's ready to pay for most of them.
"It's well worth it," Steen told NHL.com. "If more guys want to come I'll have to scrape around to get some more. It's my gift to them."
Born in Winnipeg when his father, Thomas, was playing for the Jets, Steen considers himself a Swede now and can't wait to go home with the Blues. Many people who know him best will finally get a chance to see him play in an NHL game in person.
"My grandparents watch when the games are on TV there. They stay up at night, but it's not the same when it's 2 or 3 in the morning and you're watching the game," Steen said. "Hopefully they can come out and watch the game, but I don't know if they physically can because of the shape they are in.
"I also have friends who don't have the money to fly over to North America, but they can take the train down to Stockholm to watch the games. It will be great for them to watch the games and meet up afterwards. It's going to be weird to after the game meet up with my Swedish friends. It will be surreal and kind of funny."
Steen moved to Germany when he was 12 and finally to Sweden when he was 15. He lived there for six years before leaving for Toronto, but in that time he developed a love for Sweden and realized his dream to be a pro hockey player could come true.
He played two years of junior hockey in Vastra Frolunda's system before playing four seasons in the Swedish Elite League -- three with Frolunda and one with Modo, He made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005. He was traded to the Blues early last season.
Steen started playing for Swedish national teams at age 15. He played for Sweden in the World Under-18 Championship and twice in the World Junior Championship.
Since he also has a Canadian passport, he could have chosen to play for Canada at these various international events, but Steen felt a strong connection to his heritage as both his father and mother, Mona, are Swedish. His wife, Sofie, also is from Sweden.
"When you pull on the national-team jersey, you just feel like a true Swede," Steen said, "I consider myself a Swede."