Alfredsson: Sweden-born players in for an unforgettable thrill
Former Senators great says Karlsson, Landeskog, others will treasure memories of 2017 SAP NHL Global Seriesby Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer
STOCKHOLM -- One of Daniel Alfredsson's most cherished memories from his 18-year NHL career took place in his home country of Sweden.
Alfredsson was the captain of the Ottawa Senators when they came to Stockholm to begin the 2008-09 season with two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ericsson Globe as part of the NHL Premiere.
"It was 2½ days and two games, pretty hectic, but it was fun, it really was," Alfredsson said. "It was an unbelievable experience that ranks very high in my hockey career."
Alfredsson also remembers not playing as well as he would have liked in the two games, a win and an overtime loss. In fact, the only thing that would have made his experience better is if the games took place later in the season, after he and the Senators had gotten some games in and were rolling.
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That's why Alfredsson is excited to watch the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series games this weekend, because the Senators and Colorado Avalanche each are 14 games into their respective seasons.
The Avalanche (8-6-0) and Senators (6-3-5) play at Ericsson Globe on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN5, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV) and Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, RDS, ALT, NHL.TV).
"I think the product will be better because teams have had games to work out their kinks they might have had coming out of training camp, which isn't very long anymore," Alfredsson said. "They should be pretty much in full stride, both teams. Obviously, both teams are probably shook up with the trade that happened, but that's part of the business. But overall I think it will be and should be great hockey."
The trade, of course, is a major subplot to the games. Center Matt Duchene was traded from the Avalanche to the Senators as part of a three-team transaction Sunday. Duchene will face his former team in his first game with his new team.
To Alfredsson, that only adds to the intrigue in the Global Series, which he expects to be better than any of the previous 26 regular-season games the NHL has staged in Europe since 1997. This is the latest the NHL has staged regular-season games outside of North America.
"They've got their lines figured out pretty much, their power plays and penalty-killing, the way they want to play 5-on-5," Alfredsson said. "There is not the uncertainty that can be in the first two, three, four or maybe five games that there could be in the beginning of the season regardless, if we were in North America. I think they're still fresh. It hasn't been 40 games, when you start tiring a little bit maybe. I'm really excited for the games. It should be high pace and hopefully a lot of scoring as well."
Alfredsson, a forward who played for the Senators from 1995-2013, and fellow Sweden-born hockey legend Peter Forsberg, a center who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Avalanche, took part in a joint press conference at Ericsson Globe on Wednesday. Forsberg said the fact the Senators and Avalanche each have a Sweden-born captain -- defenseman Erik Karlsson of Ottawa and forward Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado -- adds to the local intrigue.
"It's great for the NHL that they're coming here," Forsberg said. "I think it's good for hockey overall because now we get to see the best players in the world and two teams that have Swedish captains. … Maybe you go watch a Swedish League game afterward and you're like, 'Well, the NHL guys were much better.' I think that's what you have to watch for, but for the NHL side, I think it's great."
As Alfredsson can attest to, from the perspective of the Sweden-born players in the game, the experience likely will become one of the best each will have in his NHL career.
"[Karlsson] played against us when we were in Gothenburg [for a preseason game] in '08 and I think he thought that was a great experience," Alfredsson said. "This is another step obviously, coming to your home country, having a lot of family and friends come watch, knowing all the Swedish sports media is here covering this."
The return of the NHL to Sweden should help increase the marketability of the League and the players here and throughout Europe, Alfredsson said.
"I think it's good branding for the NHL," Alfredsson said. "[Hockey players] handle themselves in the right way with the media, off the ice. They have good social responsibilities as well. Events like this, when you get more attention from the media than a regular-season game in your home rink, I think it's great exposure for the players, for the League and for hockey in general. It's not easy to pull this together, but it's awesome that it's happening.
"If the demand is there and people are interested in it, I'm sure they'll continue it. There was an exhibition game in China this year. That's a long trip to make, but the League is in a good place and it's a good time to market itself."