Jonathan Ericsson has known since last summer that he will represent his country in next month’s Sochi Winter Olympics. What he didn’t know prior to Monday is that his older brother, Jimmie, is also on Sweden’s 25-man team headed to Russia.
“I’m sure my dad is very happy about this,” the veteran defenseman said in an exclusive phone interview from San Jose where the Red Wings will play Thursday night.
This is the first time either Ericsson has been invited to the Olympics but not their first experience on the international hockey stage. Though this time, Jonathan would like to actually play in a full game with his 33-year-old brother.
“We’ve tried to play on the national team together a couple of times,” Jonathan said. “I think he’s been injured both times and I was injured in one of the World Championships as well. So we haven’t had a chance to play together. It will be really cool if we can do that this time. We’ll see what happens; we’re still a month away.”
The Ericsson brothers received bronze medals for Sweden’s third-place finish in the 2010 World Championship in Germany. That year, after the Sharks eliminated Detroit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ericsson and a few other Wings’ teammates headed to Europe. Jonathan arrived in Mannheim in time for Sweden’s third game of the tournament but he and Jimmie never made it out to the ice at the same time.
“We started a game together,” Ericsson said of Sweden’s 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic. “He got to start the game and then he got injured on his first shift before I came in.”
Jimmie Ericsson was so shaken up after colliding with a teammate that he had to be helped off the ice. The Swedish forward did not return to the game and missed the rest of the tournament. It was the first, and last, time the Ericsson brothers ever had a chance to be teammates – until now.
“I was so happy when I heard that he was on the team,” Jonathan said. “I didn’t want to hope for it too much, but it was unbelievable. I’m thrilled about it and it’s going to be a dream experience for both of us, and our family too, who’ll be there to watch us in the Olympics. It’s going to be great!”
Though they’re little more than four years between them, the Ericssons’ playing careers have somehow always managed to avoid one another. Then, when Jonathan arrived in Michigan in 2006 to begin is North America career in the American Hockey League, Jimmie was preparing for his second season in the Swedish Elite League, which was his first with Skellefteå, where he has been the team captain for the last three seasons.
“He likes to take charge in whatever he’s doing,” Jonathan said. “He likes to be the guy that controls everything.”
Staffan Kornwall, the younger brother of Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, has played on several Swedish national teams with Jimmie Ericsson, even giving the eldest Ericsson a fitting moniker.
“They have nicknames for all of the (Swedish) players and that’s what they kind of call him, the Governor,” Jonathan said. “He likes to set the rules and everything has to be in black and white before he starts anything so nobody can cheat. He’s kind of like that guy, no questions allowed. Everything has to be set in stone.”
Besides his obvious leadership acumen, Jimmie Ericsson will bring a versatile style to the Swedish team. But as the only non-NHL player on the roster the microscope will be on him.
“We have so many good NHL players so I thought it was going to be really tough for him to get in,” Jonathan said. “But he’s a player who can play in any situation out there and that’s why I think he’s on the team too. He can play on a grinding line for sure and he does a lot of heavy work in front of the net like on the power play. He’s like that (Tomas Holmstrom) like player, greasy in front and he can make very nice plays too. He’s just got good hockey sense. He’s got a lot of good qualities.”
As for himself, Ericsson has resumed skating in hopes of returning to the Wings’ lineup later this month. He’s missed the last four games with fractured ribs.
“I’m surely, but slowly, trying to get used to being on the ice again,” said Jonathan, who is shooting for a return during the Wings’ upcoming six-game homestand later in the month. “Not much more than I can do but cruise around and do laps.”
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