Stockholm, Helsinki beckon NHL teams
"I wish we were one of those teams going to Stockholm," Kronwall told NHL.com last spring. "That would have been awesome to be playing in Globe Arena."
Kronwall's wish was granted this morning when the NHL and its Players' Association announced the teams and cities for the 2009 NHL Premiere.
The Wings, who currently sport a 26-man roster that includes eight Swedes, are going to Stockholm and, yes, they're going to play in Globe Arena.
Detroit will open the 2009-10 regular season with a pair of games in Stockholm against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 2 and 3.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will play the same dates at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
This is the third-straight season the NHL has played regular-season games in Europe. It's the first time the League has played regular-season games in Finland, though the Pittsburgh Penguins played an exhibition game in Helsinki this past September before opening this season against the Ottawa Senators at Globe Arena.
The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning also opened this season in Prague. The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings became the first NHL teams to play regular-season games overseas, opening the 2007-08 season in London.
"The NHL Premiere games are a signature event for the League, our players and our fans," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Playing regular-season games overseas is an excellent way to further engage the passionate NHL fan base in Europe and encourage the growth of the game of hockey."
"The 2009 Premiere games continue an important tradition of showcasing NHL players to an international audience," added NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly. "Our members look forward to displaying their skills in front of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic hockey fans in Finland and Sweden."
For the Red Wings, barring roster moves between now and the start of next season, the NHL Premiere will be a chance for Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Andreas Lilja, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Holmstrom and Jonathan Ericsson to sport the winged wheel in their home country.
"For the Swedish people, Detroit for sure is one of the teams they keep track of," Samuelsson told NHL.com. "There haven't been any more Swedes on a team than this team has."
The lone Swede on the Blues roster is Patrik Berglund, who is from Lidstrom's hometown of Vasteras.
"I think it’s a great thing for hockey in general, especially for the NHL to kind of spread its wings and go to other countries to market the game," Kronwall said. "NHL hockey is so different from the hockey that is being played at home. I don't think people realize that. It doesn't matter how much you watch on TV, you need to see it live to be able to experience that big difference."
The Hawks and Panthers are currently represented by only one Finn each. Florida forward Ville Peltonen and Hawks' backup goalie Antti Niemi, who is with the team now due to Nikolai Khabibulin's lower body injury, are from Vantaa, which borders Helsinki.
That won't limit the excitement, though.
"I think it's pretty cool to go over there," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith told NHL.com. "I've never been to Finland so that's neat in itself to visit that part of Europe and see what it's like over there. I think it's good the NHL does that to showcase our game over there to Finland and all the different countries that love hockey."
NHL overseas history
1938/Europe: Canadiens, Red Wings
1959/Europe: Bruins, Rangers
1976/Japan: Capitals, Kansas City Scouts
1980/Sweden: Capitals, North Stars
1989/Sweden, Czech Republic, U.S.S.R: Capitals, Flames
1990/Sweden, U.S.S.R.: Canadiens, North Stars
1990/West Germany, Austria: Blues, Oilers
1992/London: Blackhawks, Canadiens
1993/London: Rangers, Maple Leafs
1997/Japan: Mighty Ducks, Canucks
1998/Austria: Sabres, Lightning
1998/Japan: Flames, Sharks
2000/Japan: Penguins, Predators
2001/Sweden, Finland: Avalanche
2003/Sweden, Finland: Maple Leafs
2007/London: Ducks, Kings
2008/Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden: Penguins, Senators, Rangers and Lightning