Throughout the season, tampabaylightning.com will periodically talk to Lightning players or coaches to get their first-hand account of a critical moment from the season or just what's on their mind currently.
In this installment, we hear from Tampa Bay superstar defenseman Victor Hedman, who had the experience of a lifetime playing with the Lightning in his home country during the NHL Global Series in Stockholm, Sweden in early November. Hedman served as the unofficial guide for the Lightning as they spent a week in Sweden practicing, touring and, most importantly, winning on the ice as they brought all four points back to North America following a back-to-back sweep of the Buffalo Sabres.
As told to tampabaylightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns, Hedman discusses his favorite moment from the trip to Sweden, the guide he put together to help his teammates navigate the unfamiliar streets of Stockholm and the team bonding moment the group shared at a local bar once arriving.
When I think back about everything that happened during that week in Sweden, it's tough to pick one favorite moment. It was a whirlwind. But, obviously, the first game in The Globe when you hear the Swedish anthem being played before a NHL game, that was a special moment for me. I'm very proud of where I'm from. To go back home and play those two games, to hear the anthem before each one, that got me really fired up. You get to sing the anthem with the fans. You can just hear the fans belt it out. That was awesome. I was super pumped and ready to get going. The Lightning fan support in Stockholm was unbelievable too. That was another one of my favorite moments was after game two when I got interviewed on the ice and the fans stayed. That was very special. The fans that came over from (the Tampa Bay area), it shows how much they support us and are behind us all the time. There were so many Bolts fans in Sweden. It felt like the Globe was blue, and that was an amazing feeling. Buffalo has six guys from Sweden, so I thought they might have more support. But it felt like there were a lot of Bolts fans at the games and in the streets around the city in the days leading up to the games. The support was great. You thought it was going to be a little bit weird playing neutral ice and with two fanbases from so far away, but we really felt the support. I had 50 tickets for both games, but I probably knew way more people at the arena than that. I didn't get to see everyone because I was busy obviously, back-to-back games, but I had a lot of friends and family in attendance. It was super special.
There were so many media requests for me that week, and I didn't want to say no to any of them, especially with all of the Swedish media and international media that was there. It could have been overwhelming but (Lightning public relations staffers Brian Breseman and Trevor van Knotsenburg) did a good job of letting me focus on what I was there to do and that was to play hockey. But I felt it was important for us too as an organization to be available. Obviously, me being the only Swede on the team, a lot of those media responsibilities fell on me. But it was fun, had a great time. Sunday after the final game, we were a little bit tired and drained, but it was all worth it. Just super happy we got the opportunity to go.
One of the moments I remember most from the trip was getting to hang out with Nicklas Lidstrom in our locker room after a morning skate. I've met him a few times now. The first time I met him was the year I was drafted, and then we've obviously crossed paths a few times after that. It's always fun to see legends like that. He's doing TV for Swedish Viasat. We were just chatting a little bit and talking hockey. It was pretty cool to talk to him. Everyone knows who he is. He's a legend in Sweden and in the NHL. It's always fun to talk to players like him.
Video: Wired for Sound | Hedman at Global Series
Our first night in Sweden, all the guys on the team wanted to watch football. It was a Sunday. But football's not that big in Sweden. I've known this guy since I was probably 16 years old that owns sports bar all over the country, so I texted him and asked if they had any football games showing and he said he could get the games for us. We all went to his bar in Stockholm and got to see the Kansas City game against Minnesota. The whole team went there. He took good care of us, and we just watched the football games, watched a couple hockey games, a couple soccer games. Yeah, that was a good first night. It was super special for me to be able to show the guys around my home country. I put together a little something for everyone with restaurants and stuff to see, so I didn't have to be the tour guide every day. My wife Sanna helped out a lot. She's a better researcher than me. The guys used it a lot they said. Trainers used it. Coaches used it. It was just good to put that together. It's tough to come to a new country and try to figure out where to go. Swedes are super helpful though and everyone speaks very good English, so I don't think the guys had any trouble at all.
When they announced we would be playing these games in Sweden, I wanted to have the guys try surstromming. It's a Swedish delicacy. Swedes love it. It's basically like rotten herring. But the smell is just so bad, and I don't even like it myself. So I cut them a break and didn't make them try it. I didn't want anyone to puke. We tried some of my other favorite stuff though. Toast Skagen, it's like shrimp, mayo, dill, different stuff and you put it on toast, kind of like a shrimp salad. That's my favorite. The guys liked it a lot. I had them try that. A lot of guys had reindeer for the first time too. Obviously, meatballs. A lot of guys had meatballs. You've got to have meatballs. That's a go to when you're in Sweden. We're famous for meatballs, but there's a lot of food that's really good in Sweden and Stockholm in particular. We love our food.
I know the guys really enjoyed the trip, and we had a lot of fun as a team. I think that showed on the ice too. We were buzzing. Coming away with two wins as well was very important for us. It was just such a great experience all around and one I'll never forget.