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Wings, Blues have Swedish stars that fans love

by John McGourty
The two games between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues that will open the 2009-10 NHL season in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 2-3, sold out within an hour Wednesday, officials said.

There was a great deal of anticipation for the tickets from the time the game was announced and the Swedes burned up the Internet to purchase tickets from Ticnet, a Ticketmaster subsidiary, Swedish publicist Jay Sietsema said. 

"We have the world's best hockey team coming here, the Detroit Red Wings, and they have (eight) very good Swedish players in their lineup," said Sietsema. "We knew demand would be very high.

The Globe Arena seats 13,000 for each game, so that's 26,000 tickets with an average cost of $150, an unusually high price in Sweden.

"I talked to a couple of our players prior to the sale and they told me there was tremendous interest. We have so many Swedish players, so I wasn't totally surprised," said Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland. "It's an NHL game. The Red Wings since the middle 1990s have had first a lot of Russian players and now a lot of Swedes. We play a European style of hockey.

"The Swedes showed a lot of interest before when Mats Sundin returned to play there in an NHL game and again this year when Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators played there. We have eight Swedish players on our roster and this is probably a one-time thing, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to see the Red Wings and our Swedish Red Wings."

Sietsema said St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund has a good following in Sweden, but most of the enthusiasm is for the Red Wings and their Swedish players -- captain Nicklas Lidstrom, right wings Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen, left wings Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, and defensemen Niklas Kronwall, Andreas Lilja and Jonathan Ericsson.

"We're very honored to have the Blues, but Detroit is the Stanley Cup champion and they have the (eight) Swedish players," Sietsema said. "It's hard to say whether having the Stanley Cup winner is the draw or whether it's the Swedish players, but even if Detroit didn't win the Stanley Cup, they're still a very strong team with a lot of popular Swedish players. So I guess I'd say it's the players that are the draw and the Stanley Cup is icing on the cake."

"Everybody in our organization is excited about the trip," Holland said. "We feel the timing is right. In the past, the NHL scheduled these games for the week before the regular-season opening, for a number of reasons. From a business and competitive standpoint, we had no interest. We wanted the full preparation time of the preseason to get ready.

"We think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase Nick Lidstrom, who will be 39 next season and in the last year of his contract. We're hoping he plays well beyond that with us. At this stage, I'm especially happy for Nick, who I think will have a tremendous week over there, receiving the acclaim for what he has done for his country, our League and our team."

It can be safely argued that the Red Wings have two of the best Swedish players in the world and probably the top three in Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, and Zetterberg, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Holmstrom is the NHL's dominant power forward and, like Lidstrom, a member of all four of Detroit's Stanley Cup champions since 1997.

Zetterberg tied Sidney Crosby with 27 points for the Stanley Cup Playoff scoring lead and tied Franzen for the lead with 13 goals. He also led with a plus-16 rating and 116 shots. Zetterberg was second with 4 game-winning goals, behind Franzen's 5. Franzen also led with 6 power-play goals and 2 shorthanded goals, tying three others. Kronwall was second to Sidney Crosby with 15 assists.  

The Red Wings' players found a very interesting use for the Stanley Cup during its visit to Sweden last summer. It was used as a baptismal font for two Liljas, one Holmstrom and a Zetterberg. Henrik's nephew was baptized at his house Aug. 3.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will play a pair games at Hartwell Arena in Helsinki, Finland. Sweden and Finland are the top-ranked countries in terms of overseas visitors to

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