It was almost a reunion of former Sharks players from Sweden at the morning skate at the Globe in Stockholm. First there was Johan Garpenlov, he of the famous OV line back in the Sharks first playoff run. Then Marcus Ragnarsson, who is still playing with Djurgardens, made an appearance. When the Sharks returned to their hotel, Nils Ekman was holding court with some old teammates. The feeling among them was that Ulf Dahlen could be stopping by for one of the games.
Garpenlov is part of the hockey staff for Djurgardens and is prepping his country for international play.
“This year I’m going to work with the national team as a team manager,” said Garpenlov. “That is my work right now.”
Garpenlov retired from professional hockey in 2000 because of a shoulder injury and became an assistant coach for several years. Yet he still fondly recalls his San Jose time.
“For me, I had so much fun there,” said Garpenlov. “My first year was tough and the second year was better. Then after that we took a step up and went from a bottom team to the playoffs. For me, it was a great move from Detroit and I got to play a lot in San Jose. I have to thank San Jose a lot for my years.”
The Sharks fans would rather thank him for an early magical time with the franchise as they made it to the second round of the postseason in year three.
“Unfortunately we got beat by Toronto, but we should have won that series,” said Garpenlov. “We were better. Some years you click and go further than anyone thinks you are going to go.”
And yet, the post question was brought up to Garpenlov by the media about the goal post he struck that could have pushed San Jose to the Western Conference Finals against the Canucks.
“I know, I know,” said Garpenlov. “The game before we had the chance to win too, but we didn’t find a way to win it. We had a really good team and I thought we (would have) had a good chance against Vancouver. We beat them almost every time (in the regular season).”
The fans are the memorable factor for every player who passes through HP Pavilion and the Swedish contingent was no different.
“When I played there, the fans were awesome,” said Garpenlov. “Even when we were losing the fans were good to us. They are the loudest and best in the league.”
“The fans were fantastic every game,” said Ragnarsson. “They cheered us on despite my first couple years when we were almost the worst in the league. The whole area is beautiful and I’m looking forward to coming back and visiting. It’s a place I miss and I will always keep it in my heart.”
Ragnarsson is currently hurt, but is rehabbing his shoulder in hopes of playing the rest of the season.
“I haven’t played any games yet, but hopefully I’ll get back this fall,” said Ragnarsson. “This (Globe Arena) is our home arena when we play the other team from Stockholm.”
Ragnarsson departed the NHL early for his native country for family reasons, so it’s no surprise that he still playing at close to 40.
“I left after the lockout year, Jacob (his oldest child) was going to start school,” said Ragnarsson, who didn’t want his kids to miss out on the Swedish life. “Looking back on it, I probably could have played some more years. The thing is, in my last game with the Flyers against Tampa, I broke my finger in Game 3 and that was a bad way to end it. The family is still the most important thing.”
For a short while, Ragnarsson played with a second division club because it was close to home, but now he’s commuting more than 200 kilometers each way to play for Djurgardens. It led to a recent reunion with a former Sharks player.
“I just met (Jeff) Friesen in Germany, we played them in an exhibition tournament,” said Ragnarsson.
It’s good to see players who have long departed San Jose still look fondly upon the city.