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Team Sweden will have Wings in World Cup

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are expected to be two members of Team Sweden in next year's World Cup. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- Red Wings fans have gotten used to seeing some of their players wearing blue and gold in world tournaments.

That won't change when the World Cup is held next Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016, in Toronto.

NHL.com's projected roster for Team Sweden includes Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist.

"It's pretty special," Zetterberg said. "It's been a while since we've done it. Last time we didn't do that well, Sweden, but we think we're going to have a good team this time around. It's a little different. Obviously it's early in the season, in September, so you gotta be ready from the start. Basically going to be playoff hockey right away. But I think it's fun that we try it, see how it goes and hopefully we can continue doing that."

The World Cup in hockey has only been held twice before. Team Sweden lost in the quarterfinals in 2004 and lost in the semifinals in 1996.

"I think it's a great way for the NHL to market the game of hockey even more, get access to a new audience overseas," Kronwall said. "Hopefully that way we'll get even more people involved in the game of hockey."

Both Zetterberg and Kronwall won the gold medal with Team Sweden at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, along with Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom.

Zetterberg and Kronwall also won gold medals at the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia.

No matter how many times they represent their country, it's always a wonderful feeling to don the Tre Kronor (three crowns).

"The thing is, when you're a kid growing up in Sweden, you're not thinking about NHL," Zetterberg said. "You want to play on the national team because you think that's where all the best players are playing. I remember the first time I played on the national team, it's a big moment for a hockey player from Sweden to put that jersey on. It's the same feeling every time you have a chance to do it. Now when you play over here, you don't have the opportunity that much to go and play for your country. Obviously this will give us another chance."

Said Kronwall: "It's an extremely proud moment every time you get a chance to wear it, even just getting picked to be on the team, I take a lot of pride in that. That's something as a kid you grew up idolizing those guys. To get a chance to play for the country, it's something that's very special."

It will be the third time for Nyquist, who played for Team Sweden in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus.

Having familiar teammates is a good thing for Zetterberg, Kronwall and Nyquist.

"It's a short tournament," Kronwall said. "You don't have that many practices beforehand. Of course, the more you know the guys that you're going to be playing with beforehand, the better you are."

Zetterberg and Kronwall are also very familiar with the other Swedes who play in the NHL.

"Every time we go and play on the national team, we have a blast," Zetterberg said. "It's fun to be able to spend some more time than you do during the year."

The most fun is when you win, of course, and the expectations are always high for Team Sweden.

"That's the standard that has to be," Kronwall said. "It's kind of the same way it's been with the Red Wings. People expect you to win. That's the only way you're going to go about it. If you don't expect to win, you should be in a different sport or doing something else."

Zetterberg said the Swedes welcome those expectations.

"We have a good enough team to go all the way and win," Zetterberg said. "But the beauty of the tournament is that all the nations that are in probably feel the same way. It's going to be a tough tournament. I saw that the finals are best of three so once you get there, the best team will probably win. It's not going to be one and done. But it's a long way there, obviously you're going to face some good teams from the start, not like the world championship when you have a few rounds to get ready for the quarterfinals. But I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully we're going to have a good, healthy team and we're going to do good."

The other seven teams competing are Team Canada, Team USA, Team Russia, Team Czech Republic, Team Finland, Team Europe and Team North America.

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