Lightning defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman are used to playing the role of anchors along the blue line, but rarely do the two Swedish rearguards receive the opportunity to anchor a large sailing ship. On Feb. 5, however, the two stars of the Tampa Bay Lightning earned a rare chance.
Ohlund and Hedman climbed aboard the T/S Gunilla, the largest sailing ship in Sweden, to hold a casual hour-long Q & A session and to officially welcome the vessel to Tampa Bay for a week’s stay at the Tampa Port Authority, while its members participate in a unique educational opportunity.
More than 40 high school students from the Swedish Upper Secondary School and approximately 10 crew members aboard the huge, 165-foot three-mast sailing ship embarked from Sweden at the end of August and arrived in Tampa Bay on Feb. 1.
Part of the Swedish school system, this sailing classroom educates a new generation of students interested in oceanography, marine biology and other related fields, as it fosters a more sustainable future through cultural exchange and experiences at sea.
“Being from Sweden, I know what it is like for these students to come here, but it is a great thing they’re doing and it was a pleasure to share our experiences and hear their stories,” Ohlund said.
While the students explained to the players what life was like aboard a ship for ten months, they also got something in return.
Ohlund and Hedman, after receiving a complimentary, student-led tour of the ship, signed autographs for about a half an hour and cordially posed for pictures with the students.
“I was a little surprised to see them,” student Emanuel Gunjarsson said. “You don’t expect to see two hockey players on a boat, but it was very welcoming and nice to see what the town has to offer.”
“It was a great experience for both Mattias and I and the students. We talked with them and found out we have a lot in common,” Hedman added. “The students did a great job of showing us the ship and what they do, and we were glad to sign autographs for them too in return.”