STOCKHOLM -- One year ago, defensemen and Stockholm natives Johnny Oduya and Patrik Nemeth were teammates with the Dallas Stars. Now, they are reunited, in a way. They have returned, by separate paths, by separate means, to the same place, somehow: Stockholm.
Though neither did it on purpose. Neither realized it immediately.
For Oduya, the chance to play a regular-season NHL game in his hometown wasn't a thought in his mind when he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Ottawa Senators on July 24.
"It would probably be quite unprofessional to make a decision based on that, but I actually had no real idea that was going on, so somebody texted me afterwards and said, oh, you're coming back in November," Oduya said.
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That was when the lightbulb turned on, and he realized that, as a member of the Senators, he would be coming to Stockholm for the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series when the Senators play the Colorado Avalanche at Ericsson Globe on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, ALT, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV) and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV).
"I was like, oh yeah, those games are going on. I didn't really think about that, so that was a pleasant surprise, of course," he said. "A bonus."
For Nemeth, it was much of the same, though he didn't have a choice about heading to Colorado. In his case, he was claimed off waivers by the Avalanche from the Stars on Oct. 3. And though he knew, in the back of his mind, that the Stockholm games were coming up, it wasn't something he thought about immediately upon being claimed.
"It was pretty quick, it was maybe a couple days when things got settled down a little bit, we were starting to talk about that," Nemeth said. "They were going to want to come and see the game. Everything is positive. It's an awesome feeling to be here."
Oduya and Nemeth, though, have been content to remain in the background, to let their more vocal, more voluble teammates show off their city, watching as best friends Fredrik Claesson and Gabriel Landeskog have taken the lead.
Though, for Nemeth, that's a little bit of a bonus, too. As he said, "He gave the guys some tips on where to go and what to do. Hopefully the guys will be happy about his taste of restaurants and all that stuff. If they're not happy, it's on him."
But that does not mean they are any less excited, less proud to be here in their hometowns, in a surprising twist from where they were last season, at least before the trade of Oduya from Dallas to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28 first separated them.
"We've been talking a little bit about it," Nemeth said of Oduya. "He's as excited as I am. It's going to be … hopefully I'll give him a shove. It's just going to be fun. It's just going to be an awesome feeling to be in your hometown in the middle of the season, just great."
Each have been inundated with ticket requests. Though, as Nemeth joked, "I think Gabriel Landeskog actually took all the tickets. There wasn't any left so I don't have that many. I took the scraps."
Oduya is taking more than the scraps.
"I would say, split between the two games, it's almost around 80 to 85 people, so around 40 people a game," Oduya said. "We tried to split it up a little bit and then tried to get as many in as possible. Try to accommodate as much as possible, make it fun for everybody."
And it gives them a chance to do what most of their teammates do every season, play in front of those friends and family, get to show off and visit and see life at home, just a little.
"It's a fun experience and something, of course, that's very different, to play at home with the NHL team," Oduya said. "For some of the guys it's normal, they're from cities in North America, have NHL teams and friends and family coming throughout the year to watch them play. For us it's very special."
And special to face an old teammate and friend, one year after they played alongside each other on the same defense with the Stars.
"We'll see if we have some time," Nemeth joked. "Might have to bump into each other in the hotel."