Friday, Oct. 2 - Hockeytown is alive and well in Stockholm
Last night's season opener premiered to nearly 14,000 fans, a sold out game in Stockholm's Globe Arena. The best part of that number is the overwhelming number of Wings' fans who turn out to be the majority of the stadium. I walked in about an hour before warm-ups to see anxious Wings' fans already in their seats.
Once the players exited the ice, the game opened with a live performance and the crowd was ready to see the Wings take the ice.
Throughout the night, I encountered fans chanting, "Let's go Red Wings," telling me who their favorite players are, clusters of fans in their Red Wings best and even a few wearing the collectable paper hockey helmets that EA Sports offered on the concourse.
The game ended 4-3 in favor of the Blues and despite the score, Red Wings' fans merrily displayed their red and white. On my way out, I caught several groups of fans shouting, "Let's go Red Wings," in anticipation of tonight's game.
See you tonight at 3 p.m. EDT when the Wings take on the Blues one more time at Globe Arena.
Thursday, Oct. 1 - Superfans take Stockholm
Today was a very cool day for local fans in Stockholm. It started off at practice when 12 kids from the Players Association Goals and Dreams program were invited to watch the Wings practice at the Globe Arena. It was clear to anyone in the rink that no one was more excited than the kids, who not only caught a glimpse of their favorite players practicing, but also met and get autographs from them. As an added bonus, another group of fans, who traveled from Detroit joined us at the rink today and will be in town for both games.
After practice, Kris Draper surprised the kids with 18 tickets to tonight's game so they could have the full Red Wings' experience in Stockholm.
Later, we grabbed a quick coffee and boarded the buses to head to Central Station in Stockholm to attend a pep rally for local fans. The teams entered Central Station to find a sea of fans itching for their hockey fix. During the rally, both Lidstrom and Zetterberg greeted Stockholm. Later, Cleary presented local youth hockey teams with new equipment. Once the rally was over, local fans had the chance to meet some players and get autographs.
Once back on the bus, some players talked about the number of Wings' jerseys in the crowd and the number of fans that showed up to support our visit from the U.S. Overall, it was a great way to end the day and gear up for our first regular-season game.
See you tonight on Twitter or 97.1 The Ticket with Ken Kal LIVE from the Globe Arena tonight as the Wings face-off against the Blues at 3 p.m. EDT.
Wednesday, Sept. 30 - Karlstad's got spirit, yes they do
Last night, I experienced my first European hockey game in Sweden at Lofbergs Lila Arena where the Wings conquered Farjestad BK 6-2. Seemingly everyone in Karlstad knows at least something about hockey. Throughout the city, it is clear to see that while it's not the Hockeytown, it certainly is a hockey town. From the Red Wings jerseys hanging in the shop windows to the fans, the city was clearly ready to see their beloved Wings in action.
After a three-hour train ride from Stockholm to Karlstad, eager fans at the train station greeted the team as they got off the train. The buses arriving at Loftbergs Lila Arena were greeted by a host of fans toting Lidstrom jerseys and hockey enthusiasts ready to get their game on.
Once I arrived at the stadium, I was escorted to the catwalk of the rink where I joined NHL's Dan Rosen to watch the game and send you live updates from Twitter. Unlike the games we see at home, the game started off with both the American and Swedish national anthems sung in duet by a male and female who were accompanied by a snare drummer on the ice.
As soon a the anthems were through, I was immediately entertained by the standing room-only section behind the home net. The energy and excitement of these fans reminded me of the student section of college football games.
Most fans were also sporting a commemorative scarf with Wings on one half and Farjestad BK on the other, while participating in what can only be described as the most coordinated cheering I've ever seen. After the game, dozens of fans collected near the team bus to catch a glimpse of their favorite players up close or ask for autographs. Overall, I have to say Karlstad has some spirit when it comes to hockey.
See you tomorrow LIVE from the pep rally.
Tuesday, Sept. 29 - You ate what in Sweden?
With a decent night’s sleep and some true European coffee under our belts, today was much more fun. Around 8 a.m. (our time) the team began trickling downstairs for breakfast. For those that have never experienced it – let me pause to describe the variety that is a Swedish breakfast. From pancakes (which are more like the American version of crepes) to eggs, cheeses and fish to the strongest coffee you’ll ever find, it’s quite the experience with tables upon tables of options.
Once everyone had their fill, we faced the chilly outdoors to load the bus and head to Stockholm’s Globe Arena, a dome-shaped-larger-than-life-full-of-stairs experience. The team quickly dressed, played a couple games of (what looked like) hackey sack with a soccer ball before hitting the ice and going to work at practice. Dozens of cameras and media (American and local) flooded to hallways eager to chat with the players or snap them in action on ice.
After practice, Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard suggested I try the pizza in Sweden. Open to the challenge, I trekked downtown with Bedard, Chris Osgood, Jimmy Howard and Brett Lebda to see what Sweden had to offer in the way of pizza. Much to my surprise, the menu was quite exotic (and luckily, written in English) with combinations like chicken, curry and banana pizza to sheep cheese, mushrooms and boiled ham pizza. Considering the rest of the week ahead, I erred on the side of caution and went with the cheese while everyone else ordered combinations like mushroom, ham and cheese or sausage, ham and general vegetables. During lunch, the group exchanged stories from the previous night, like the dangers of walking in the bicycle lane (you will get run over) and the majority of restaurants we had visited that played music in English.
The walk back to our hotel warranted a quick stop at 7-Eleven (oh yes, they’re here too) for some water and local candy. Now I sit in my room loading photos and videos of the day to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace before venturing out later tonight for more exploring and of course, food.
Stay tuned tomorrow for game updates on Twitter and more footage LIVE from Stockholm.
Monday, Sept. 28 - What did they do on a plane for eight hours?
After clinching a 4-1 win against the Penguins last night at the Joe, the team headed to the airport and left for Sweden. Before we left, some of our fans asked a pretty good question when it comes to long trips: “What do they do for seven hours on a plane?”
No, there were not any songs involving Ace of Base. Actually, it was pretty much what anyone would do for seven hours.
As it turns out, after an evening game we have some pretty hungry people on our hands so the flight crew was kind enough to feed and water the group, who all chatted among themselves, watched movies or read before falling asleep to get some good rest for today. At about 3 a.m. EDT, the group woke up to see the sunrise over the ocean and surprise, surprise – it was breakfast time!
We officially arrived this morning around 5 a.m. EDT (approximately 11 a.m. here) a little tired, a little slaphappy, but excited nonetheless. The team then boarded a bus for an hour-long ride to our hotel in downtown Stockholm.
So here I sit in my hotel room downloading photos, videos and updating our various social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and MySpace wondering what’s next. What would you like updates on from this trip?
More to come, Hockeytown.