Of the Stars from that part of the world, three-winger Loui Eriksson
, defenseman Nicklas Grossman and winger Tom Wandell
, are from Sweden, while the fourth Scandinavian-born Star, rookie blueliner Philip Larsen
, is a native of neighboring Denmark.
Eriksson and Grossman are both in their sixth seasons in the NHL while this is Wandell’s fourth year in Dallas and Larsen’s 12-game stint with the Stars so far this season marks the longest stay he has had in the league thus far.
Having at least one fellow Swede or two in the room is nothing new for Eriksson as that has been commonplace throughout his first five seasons in Dallas.
“It’s always nice to have someone you can talk to in your own language. That’s how it’s been for me every year that I’ve been here,” Eriksson said. “I’ve always had some other Swedes on the team. It’s definitely nice to have that sometimes if you just want to chat a little bit in your own language.”
And while this is a diverse group in terms of their NHL experience, no matter how long they’ve been playing or where they are from, the bond between this talented Dallas quartet is quite strong.
Even though Larsen is the only non-Swede of the group, he does speak the language. That’s because he started playing junior hockey in Sweden at age 15 and picked up Swedish pretty quickly. In fact, since his locker is so close to that of Eriksson’s at the Stars’ headquarters in Frisco, it’s not a rare sight after practice to hear the two conversing in Swedish.
“Yeah, I’ve been speaking Swedish for a long time. I remember the first year when I moved to Sweden, everything was in Swedish. You don’t have that choice. You’ve got to learn it,” Larsen said. “It was easy for me because I was living with another Danish guy at that time, sharing an apartment together that first year. He was new too, so he learned it pretty quick. He was better at Swedish than I was. It was easy for him to teach me stuff. You speak it more and more and you don’t realize you’re speaking it all the time.”
And even though their rookie teammate isn’t a native Swede and has only been speaking the language for a few years, his fellow Scandinavians have accepted him and are also quite impressed with how quickly he’s picked up their native tongue.
“He’s been in Sweden long enough that you don’t really know he isn’t from there. He has a little bit of an accent from living with Loui since he’s from down South but it’s not that noticeable,” Grossman said.
With five years of NHL experience under their belt, Eriksson, who was an All-Star for the first time last season, and Grossman, may have the strongest bond of all. Not only have they been teammates in Dallas for the last five seasons but they were also skating for the same teams long before they ever arrived in Big D.
“Yeah, it’s always fun. Me and Loui have been playing together for seven or eight years. We started off in the World Championships, then went to the Iowa Stars and came up here almost at the same time,” Grossman said. “I’ve been following their family and seeing his kids growing up.”
But that doesn’t mean the hulking Dallas blueliner’s bond is any stronger with Eriksson than it is with Larsen or Wandell.
“Tom and I were good friends from playing juniors together back in Sweden. We were good friends from school,” Grossman said. “We came over here and end up on the same team. Then, [Larsen], he’s also Scandinavian. He’s a Danish kid and has the same roots. I’ve seen him in the summertime a couple of times. It’s always fun to have guys you know a little more. When Christmas time comes around, we’ll jump over to each other’s houses and have Swedish Christmas. Off-ice, it’s always fun to have a little tradition.”
Larsen, 22, and Wandell, 24, are the two youngest members of this group and they too have a history that dates back to before they ever logged a single minute of ice time in the NHL.
“We’re similar guys. We have the same interests off the ice. We like to hang out,” Wandell said. “In his situation, I had [Grossman] when I came up, he helped me a lot. Loui helped me a lot. It’s always easier to have a couple of guys from the same country for sure. You can ask them little things and that’s important on the ice and off the ice. It helps a lot for sure.”
In fact, the only rookie member of this quartet remembers how big of a help Wandell was in helping him acclimate to a different style of hockey in the States as well as a different lifestyle during his first developmental camp with the Stars just a few years ago.
“When I came over here, my first year in developmental camp, I quickly got to know Tom [Wandell] because he’s from Sweden. We played against each other when we played junior in Sweden,” Larsen said. “He came over here a couple of years before me but I got to know him in camp that year. He’s been here before, so he knows how everything is working. I remember when I came over here the first time I was a little bit lost. I didn’t know how everything was working and stuff, so I needed someone to help me out in development camp.”
But all Wandell was doing was paying forward some advice he had gotten from Grossman, since that was who he lived with when he first came to NHL. The big Swedish defenseman was never hesitant to offer his fellow Swede sage advice whenever it was warranted, a favor Wandell repaid by imparting much of those same words of wisdom to Larsen.
“He [Wandell] helped me out and then I got to know Grossman because they lived together and stuff. Grossie, he’s just a big boy and a really great guy, always happy and really fun to hang around with, both those guys,” Larsen said. “I’m thankful for all they gave me. It’s hard to figure everything out by yourself. The way they helped me made me more comfortable. They’ve been a really big help for me. I really appreciate the way they treat people coming in. They don’t have to be like that but they do it. It’s nice and it makes you feel good.”
It’s been a similar situation for Larsen not only in his current stint in the NHL but in his previous two stays with the Stars as he has lived with Eriksson and picked up plenty of tips just by being around the 2011 NHL All-Star forward.
“I knew him before I came over here a little bit. He’s been a really big help for me. I’ve stayed at his house every time I got called up. He’s one of the good guys on the team. I’ve learned a lot from him-how to be and how not to be,” Larsen said. “He’s trying to help me as much as he can. It’s always nice to have a guy like him to lean on when you come up so you don’t feel like you’re on your own. He’s done a lot for me and I don’t know how I can give it back but I’m sure he learned it from somebody and that’s of course when one day I get as good as he is, I’ll try to do the same because he’s done a really good thing for me and I appreciate it.”