"Just to be able to come home to Sweden and play in the same building that you used to play in and you'll have your family and most of your friends there. It's going to be an awesome feeling -- and something I never imagined would have ever happened."
-- Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall
searched for the right word to describe what the Compuware NHL Premiere means to him. After a moment's pause, he came up with "surreal."
"I think that's a pretty good word to describe it," the Detroit defenseman told NHL.com.
For Kronwall, surreal is playing two NHL games -- Oct. 2 and 3 against the St. Louis Blues
-- in his home city of Stockholm.
Surreal to play those games in the Ericsson Globe, an arena he called home for four seasons while playing with Djurgardens in the Swedish Elite League.
Surreal to play those games in that arena in front of family and friends who still haven't seen him play an NHL game in person.
"Just to be able to come home to Sweden and play in the same building that you used to play in and you'll have your family and most of your friends there," Kronwall said with obvious excitement attached to each syllable. "It's going to be an awesome feeling -- and something I never imagined would have ever happened."
Kronwall, one of six Swedes who will accompany the Red Wings to Stockholm, was jealous of the Ottawa Senators
and Pittsburgh Penguins
a year ago because they got to open the 2008-09 regular season with a pair of games at the Globe.
"No question about that," he said. "When they announced a couple of teams were going over most of us Swedes were hoping we were one that got to go. It didn't happen the first time around, but the second time around we got the chance. It's a big thrill for all of us."
For Kronwall, it will feel like a pair of home games. He has played in the Globe more than 100 times and spends the summer working out and skating in the rink right next door. He knows all the nooks and crannies of the building.
"I have walked through those doors and in that arena for many years," Kronwall said. "I feel pretty comfortable there."
He said he has put in for 120 tickets for the two games. For games at Joe Louis Arena, Kronwall said he usually doesn't have to ask for any more than the two each Red Wings player is allotted. Sometimes those don't even get used.
"These last few weeks, it's been more and more text messages and phone calls from family and old friends who would like to see the game and are asking about tickets," Kronwall said. "It will be different for sure."
As much as this is a dream come true for Kronwall, it's also a business trip. It may feel weird for him to spend five nights in a Stockholm hotel when his house is just a short drive away, but that's just a reminder that he's going home to work, not play.
"There's not going to be that much time," Kronwall said. "There's going to be a lot going on."