DETROIT – When Henrik Zetterberg and Emma Andersson married three years ago, they didn’t bother to submit a wedding gift registry at a major department store.
Instead, the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Zetterberg asked for gifts of money from the guests, who assembled at their Scandinavian ceremony in the coastal town of Mölle in southern Sweden. The monetary gifts would help the Red Wings’ superstar and his beautiful bride achieve a dream that has allowed them to make a difference in communities around the world.
Through the formation of the Zetterberg Foundation, the Red Wings’ captain has proven to be an outstanding leader in the community through a variety of missions. Outside of his on-ice success, which includes a Stanley Cup championship and an Olympic gold medal, Zetterberg, along with Emma, have made it a personal crusade to give back to those less fortunate, whether they’re struggling financially or through poor health.
“The biggest thing for me is that he's so unselfish,” Wings forward Daniel Cleary said. “He's such a personable guy. He's a star. He's got great talent on the ice, but he's very respectful off the ice and he's vocal when he needs to be and he leads by example.”
In three short years, the Zetterbergs’ foundation has established numerous partnerships in helping communities in Detroit, Nepal, Ethiopia and Guatemala. In his adopted home, he started the Zetterberg Foundation Suite, and has been graciously involved with Make-A-Wish, smoke detector collection, prep hockey scholarships, while generously donating his time to other community outreach programs throughout the season.
For his leadership skills, and for applying the league’s core values, Zetterberg has been named this year’s recipient of the NHL Foundation Player Award for his commitment, perseverance and teamwork to enrich the lives of people in his community.
Zetterberg is the 16th recipient of the humanitarian award, and the second Red Wings player. Darren McCarty won the award in 2003 for his work with raising awareness and helping fund research for multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow and blood, that took his father's life in 1995.
Since starting the Zetterberg Foundation in 2011, the Zetterbergs have hosted more than 165 patients and their families from Detroit area children's charities at each Red Wings home game during the regular season in their Zetterberg Foundation Suite. Guests receive free suite tickets to the game with pizza and beverages provided and the patients also receive special goody bags.
In addition to the five nonprofits that the Zetterberg Foundation entertain throughout the season, the suite hosts other groups in conjunction with the team’s theme nights. On Military Appreciation Night, the suite was home to five kids, who all had a parent serving overseas. During Breast Cancer Awareness Night, the Zetterberg Foundation Suite welcomed four breast cancer patients and their families to the game. All four women received a special gift bag with an autographed Zetterberg hockey puck along with a pink and white floral arrangement to take home with them. This is something close to Emma’s heart as her mother is a breast cancer survivor.
Perhaps the biggest project undertaken by the Zetterbergs is the work that they continue to do in some of the world’s poorest regions. In cooperation with ActionAid, the Zetterbergs fully founded the creation of a primary school that has provided classrooms for more than 220 children in Kemba, Ethiopia; built six houses for former debt slaves in Nepal; and funded a care facility for abused girls in Guatemala.
The NHL Foundation Player Award is accompanied by a $25,000 donation to the recipient, which this year will go to the Zetterberg Foundation. Zetterberg said he plans to match the donation so that three water stations can be built in the village of Kemba, Ethiopia, which will provide clean water to 1,900 people for a lifetime, and hopefully allow many more children to return to school so they wouldn’t need to walk hours each day to get water for their families.