STOCKHOLM -- Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom sat in the stands at Ericsson Globe on Saturday surrounded by fellow Swedish hockey fans, many attending an NHL game in person for the first time.
It's that perspective, Lidstrom said, that makes the difference for fans here. It's the experience they got when they watched the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche play two games in the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series that is the reason why the NHL's return will be remembered as a success, and why future visits here and in other European markets should be planned.
"I think it can help growing the game because you get a better understanding of what it's like going to an NHL game," Lidstrom told NHL.com after the Senators defeated the Avalanche 4-3 on Saturday to sweep the Global Series. "The whole event, what we've seen here in the last couple of days, it's an NHL production. It's not the Swedish league playing. This is the NHL production. This is what the fans in North America get to see when they go to games. And it is different. It is. Even though you have mostly Swedish fans up in the stands, you still get the feel that this is an NHL game, it's not your regular game in Sweden."
Swedish fans, as Lidstrom noted, are as knowledgeable about the players and the teams in the NHL as any other, but most NHL games don't start here until 1 a.m. (7 p.m. ET), so it's hard to keep up with the live action, hard to stay on top of everything in real time.
Video: Watch the time-lapse of Game 2 of the Global Series
That's why seeing some of the best in the world, including Swedish stars and NHL captains Erik Karlsson from the Senators and Gabriel Landeskog from the Avalanche mattered to the 26,792 fans who took in the games this weekend; a sellout crowd of 13,396 was announced for each game.
The Senators won each game; 4-3 in overtime on Friday and by the same score, in regulation, on Saturday.
"For the fans to get a chance to see the likes of Erik Karlsson, Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, the top players and see them live, see how good they are away from the puck, see the intensity of the game up close is big," Lidstrom said. "Watching it on TV you might see the odd game, the highlights, but now you get the full perspective of an NHL game. I think the fans appreciate that, especially when you get a chance to see the top Swedish players like the captains of both teams."
The impact of these games is hard to quantify on an immediate basis in tangible terms, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. He said the League doesn't look at international events like the Global Series as big moneymakers, but more as opportunities to build the global brand.
"You're using these events as the foundation of growing your business in other ways, whether it's sponsorship, whether it's licensing, whether it's your television rights or your media rights," Daly said. "You're trying to become more relevant, more important in these markets that are non-North American markets so that there is demand for the bigger NHL product longer-term."
As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, you can't do that without bringing live action to the people who you're trying to impact, which was done this weekend in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association and with the cooperation of the teams and players involved.
The Global Series followed a similar formula to the one used staging NHL games in Europe under the NHL Premiere banner from 2007-11.
Video: Dan Rosen and Amalie Benjamin recap
"I think this was a great weekend," Senators coach Guy Boucher said. "I really think this was so well organized by everybody, the NHL and the people here. We've been treated so well and so professional in the rink and outside, with how people approached us, with a lot of respect. It was very, very enjoyable, so I think it's a total success for everybody from A to Z."
Karlsson said the players could be in their comfort zones because the event was run similar to what they are used to in North America. He said they'd be happy to come back and do it again.
"It exceeded my expectations of how good it was going to be," Karlsson said.
The NHL hasn't announced dates or locations for future Global Series games. Commissioner Bettman said there is a desire to continue building an international schedule with the NHLPA. He mentioned the League would be looking to bring these events to European hockey markets where fan engagement is as strong as the desire to see NHL games in person.
That was the basis of the NHL Premiere. It started in London, but NHL regular-season games were also played in Stockholm, Helsinki, Prague and Berlin.
"We haven't been as committed to consistency as I think we want to become," Daly said. "I think that's affected us."
The goal now is consistency, which is important, Lidstrom said, because the fans want it.
"You get the more exciting part of NHL games, where you see how it actually works in the NHL," Lidstrom said. "And, you get to see it on home ice."