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Sundin's retirement felt in home country of Sweden

by Dan Rosen
KARLSTAD, Sweden -- Nicklas Lidstrom flipped on the news this morning in his hotel room in Stockholm and saw the announcement that Mats Sundin, his former national team teammate, had called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon.

Right then, Lidstrom knew exactly what Sundin was going to say. While it wasn't all that surprising, Sundin's retirement from professional hockey sent some ripples through the Detroit Red Wings locker room.

"He's pretty close to (being a national treasure)," Lidstrom, one of eight Swedes with the Red Wings here this week, told prior to Detroit's exhibition game against Farjestads BK at Lofbergs Lila Arena. "He's one of the top players of all time that has come out of Sweden who has played in the NHL and for Team Sweden."

Sundin, the long-time captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is more famous here in Sweden than anywhere.

As Sweden's captain at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Sundin added an Olympic gold to his collection of three World Championship gold medals.

Sundin finished his career with a total of seven medals in international tournaments -- four golds, a silver and two bronze. He played in 14 tournaments with Sweden dating back to the European Junior Championships in 1989.

Sundin is the only Swedish player with 500 goals and 1,000 points in NHL history. He's the all-time leading scorer in Toronto Maple Leafs history with 420 goals and 987 points.

"You can't do much more than what he has done for Swedish hockey," Wings defenseman and Stockholm native Niklas Kronwall told "He has been a big, big key to all of our success for many, many years. To win in Turin in the Olympics is obviously a great ending to his time with the national team.

"He's looked upon as one of the greatest to ever play in Swedish hockey."

Lidstrom came to the NHL one season after Sundin, who was the first pick of the 1989 Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques and made his debut in the 1990-91 season. The Wings captain said Sundin's success in his rookie season -- he had 59 points, second on the Nordiques behind Joe Sakic -- had a great influence on him and carried through to many others like him.

"He showed a lot of the Swedes that weren't in the NHL yet that you could make it over there as a young player and you can have success, too," Lidstrom said. "I think that's how he was viewed when he first joined the League."

Once Lidstrom established his strong foothold in the NHL, the Swedes had two trendsetters to follow. Soon after came stars like Peter Forsberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Henrik Lundqvist.

"Those guys (Sundin and Lidstrom), especially in the NHL, have opened a lot of doors for many, many Swedes," Kronwall said. "How they carry themselves and also what big leaders both of them are just gives the Swedes in general a good reputation."
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