One of the newest Red Wings made a day-trip to Detroit on Tuesday.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson visited Joe Louis Arena in the morning before heading to suburban Warren where he toured the Warrior equipment facilities.
“Everyone has been so friendly and easy-going,” said Gustavsson, of his first impressions. “They’ve made me feel welcome and that really feels good because you never know what to expect.”
Gustavsson planned to return to Toronto Tuesday evening before heading home to Sweden later in the week.
Though he spent the last three NHL seasons with the Maple Leafs, Gustavsson has a pretty good idea about what life will be like with at least some of his new teammates. As backup on Sweden’s national team in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Gustavsson played alongside some of the Wings’ top players, like Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom.
While Gustavsson, who earned the moniker The Monster during his playings days in Sweden, hasn’t talked to any of the Wings since signing his new two-year contract on Sunday, he did receive one acknowledgement.
“Kronwall actually texted me and told me that he was psyched,” Gustavsson said. “But I’m really looked forward to meeting all of the players.”
Gustavsson grew-up in Danderyd, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Stockholm, where as a teenager he said he’d often stay up late to watch NHL games.
“As a Swede you followed the Red Wings with all of their history and all of the Swedes who have been here,” he said. “Obviously, with Lidstrom, a player like that that has been here for many years, and he’s such a big figure back in Sweden, too, everyone back home wants to follow the career of a guy like that, and I was one of them.”
However, the games that captivated his interest the most were the Detroit-Colorado matchups, particularly the playoff bouts when the league’s greatest rivalry of the era faced in the postseason five times between 1996 and 2002.
“I remember being a kid and watching the games against Colorado in the (conference) finals and it seemed like they were there every year against each other,” Gustavsson recalled. “I would sit up late in the morning to watch those games. The thing about Detroit, everyone knows that their culture is winning and that’s why I’m so happy to be here and be a part of that.”
Another rivalry that Gustavsson is thrilled to be a part of pits new against old when the Wings will host the Leafs in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“It’s going to be unbelievable, first of all, just to be a part of a big thing like that and to play in front of a lot of people outdoors – I’ve never done that – so that’s going to be a great experience and a lot of fun,” he said. “To have a chance to play for the Red Wings against my former team, that’s going to be even more fun. I’m looking forward to that. It should be a great day.”
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