STOCKHOLM -- The Ericsson Globe is Sweden's hockey cathedral.
It is the biggest hockey arena in the country, seating 13,850 for games and, for trivia buffs, it is the biggest hemispherical building in the world.
"The Globe stands out to you and everyone that plays hockey in Sweden knows what the Globe is," said Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. "It was a dream come true to play here for the first time and it is still special to come back here."
Hedman has played several games at the Globe with the national team at various tournaments and friendlies and as a visitor with his club team, Modo, when it faced the Stockholm clubs in big games.
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"Some good memories, some bad memories," he said of his experiences there. "Hoping to create some great memories this weekend."
Hedman is back in the Globe this week practicing for the 2019 NHL Global Series, two regular-season games between the Lightning and Buffalo Sabres. The first game is Friday (2 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, NHL.TV) and the second one is Saturday.
Hedman is the only Sweden-born player on the Lightning, but the Sabres have six: goalie Linus Ullmark, defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut, and forwards Johan Larsson, Marcus Johansson and Victor Olofsson.
So there will be a heavy home-country presence throughout the weekend. Surprisingly, few of the seven players have extensive experience playing at this hockey mecca. For years, it was the home rink to two of Stockholm's professional teams, Djurgarden and AIK. However, each moved to Hovet, a small-capacity rink next door, at the start of the 2007-08 Swedish Hockey League season. Sometimes a bigger SHL game will be moved to the Globe, but it is rare, so the Sweden-born players here this weekend had limited opportunities to play at the Globe while with their club teams.
The national team calls the Globe home and each of the seven players said they have been watching those games for the past two decades, if not more. The Globe, which opened in 1989, has hosted the IIHF World Championship four times (1989, 1995, 2012 and 2013). It also hosted parts of the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and 2004.
"There have been a lot of World Championship games played here and, as a kid, I watched a lot, so it has always been a dream," said Olofsson, who has played one game in the Globe when he was with Frolunda of the SHL against Djurgarden. "What I remember from that game is that the place was packed and it was an unbelievable crowd."
Pilut was called up from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Saturday, the day before the Sabres left for Sweden. He said he can't believe he may get a chance to play for his NHL team here.
"I think this is a special place," Pilut said. "The national team stuff is in here and it's a special atmosphere having this many people out there. This is probably the biggest hockey arena we have in Sweden and that says a lot about it."
You don't have to be from Sweden to recognize the importance of the Globe in its hockey culture. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger was born in Canada and played in Germany before becoming a coach, making a name for himself with Switzerland's national team from 1998-2010. He was in this building for the 2013 IIHF World Championship when Switzerland unexpectedly reached the championship game, only to lose to Sweden.
"Switzerland actually won the silver and it is a program that I was a part of for a long time," Krueger said. "I wasn't actually on the bench when that happened, but I definitely had tears in my eyes in the stands to see them win a silver medal and for the program to go to another level and get the respect that it is getting so that the players are getting better shots in the National Hockey League and getting drafted higher.
"On the international platform, it all starts with the worlds, so that would be a recent memory that is special to me right here in the Globe."
Dahlin has never played at the Globe. He said he can hardly wait for the first opportunity, which will come Friday.
"If you are from Sweden, you want to play here if you play hockey," he said.