Are you kidding me?!? The Roxette show isn't until next month?!?
Fine, I guess I'll check out that American ice hockey game in the meantime.
Since I was filled with excitement and anticipation, I decided to get to the NHL Premiere game in Stockholm between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers a little bit early. I wasn't sure what to expect at the Ericsson Globe 2 hours before game-time, but I figured it would be similar to the pre-game atmosphere at a Kings playoff game. Maybe the Royal Marching Band would be playing the national anthem of Sweden or something like that?
Yeah, not so much.
In fact, the only thing set up was a booth selling some awful counterfeit NHL Premiere merchandise.
Like all good arenas, the Ericsson Globe is surrounded by a mall with some shops and a few touristy bars. So I headed inside to see what the action was looking like.
Well, the Rangers were represented.
Well, the Sedin's and the... uh... Toronto Maple Leafs were represented.
The Boston Bruins were represented.
I have been a fan of Rangers blogger Scotty Hockey for a while now, as he is one thing about New York City that I can actually stand. And since I knew he was going to be at this game, I was hoping I'd be able to pick him out of the sea of Rangers fans.
I should have known.
I chatted for a bit with Scotty and his fellow Rangers fans including a die-hard fan who had flown from Germany to see his favorite NHL team. He was even draped in an American flag and more patriotic than most of the American fans who had flown over for this game.
Another treat came when I got to meet up with Marcus Andersson and Petter Fritz, two writers for the greatest resource of information for LA Kings fans in Sweden, Svenskafans. Marcus and Petter were incredibly knowledgeable when it came to all things Los Angeles Kings... both present and past. We shared a drink together and talked about the current team. They had high expectations for the upcoming season and I reminded them that at the end of the day... these are the Kings we are talking about... and they only know how to disappoint. I don't think they were big fans of my American sense of humor.
Marcus, Petter and myself.
I was anxious to talk more with Marcus and Peter, but they had to leave in order to make it to a VIP Meet and Greet with famous Swedish NHL stars of the past, including one of my favorite all-time LA Kings, Tomas Sandstrom. I begged them to take me along as their Swedish older brother... but I don't think they were big fans of my American sense of humor. They left and since the doors of the Ericsson Globe were about to open, I figured I'd head out and see what great players from Sweden were being represented by the crowd.
Aww... but he's from Norway!!!
So, I headed inside...
The merchandise booths were crowded beyond belief. And each time a fan asked for a Richards jersey, the vendors had to say "please be more specific."
And then... I headed down to the ice.
I'm sure by now you know that the Ericsson Globe is the largest hemi-spherical building in the world, but it really is quite impressive in person. The ceiling of the globe just seems like it goes up and up. You can bet that all the fans in the building were really wowed.
Those Zuccarello kids are back on the escalator again!!!
Even though it's enormous in its spherical-ness, the Globe only seats 13,850 for hockey. According to the locals, the Globe's more practical use is for Swedish Idol.
I had no idea American country singers could compete in Swedish Idol.
Here are a couple more shots to help appreciate the spherical-ness interior design of the Globe.
As we all know, the Swedes are known for their precision when it comes to design, so of course even something as trivial as the goal light would be angular and functional.
"Back in my day, the closest to Europe we traveled was Quebec City!
And we liked it that way!!!"
In Sweden, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury are a little easier on the eyes.
As I continued to walk around the arena before warm-ups, I came across a group of young men who were all wearing jerseys with the logo of Anze Kopitar's brand, Eleven, on them.
These young men were from Slovenia and if I understood their broken English correctly, Anze Kopitar sponsors their youth team back home and they were incredibly excited to see him play in person. They even got a shout-out on Twitter from Kopitar after the game.
Finally, it was time for warm-ups and I couldn't wait to see what my favorite hockey team looked like skating on Swedish ice.
Too bad I couldn't see them through the glass of the Globe.
These photos were taken a mere moments after the Kings started warm-ups. I couldn't believe how full of scratches and puck marks the glass already were. Since I couldn't see much of the warm-ups, I decided to get a bite to eat.
Jesus, even the camera operators are hot in Sweden.
Even though they are one of Europe's most highly developed countries...
the Swedes still aren't above a good old fashioned pun.
Nothing screams it's hockey time like a delicious bag of Wine Gums.
I have no idea what is happening here but I love it.
If only the Rangers could have pulled off the trade for Pavel Bure 3 years earlier...
Gretzky and Bure could have spent a few years in New York together old and injured.
A rare Swedish Dixon Ward player t-shirt.
Finally, it was time to drop the puck and start the Los Angeles Kings 2011-2012 NHL season.
I don't want to brag, but my ad revenue sharing deal with Bloguin has treated me pretty, pretty good.
These Rangers fans had forgotten to invite the Capitals fans
so they could re-create the American flag.
Construction workers, hipsters or NHL licensed photographers... YOU DECIDE!
It was a sell-out crowd but you wouldn't know it from the public library-esque quiet crowd. I think it had a lot to do with how far away from the action you were as a fan... since mainly international games are played at the Globe, the ice had to be shrunk down to mirror America's economy.
There were a couple other strange elements to playing hockey at the Globe... like for the first time ever, the incredibly good-looking Jon Bernier felt ostracized from society.
"Next time Berny, maybe you'll think twice before hitting on the girl that Richards said was his."
But as awkward as the set-up of the Globe might be for NHL hockey, at least if the players were injured they could get off the ice easily.
These young men were wearing black and silver...
but they looked like no Kings Ice Girls I'd ever seen.
T-shirt Cannon Guns speak all languages.
Even though this was considered a Los Angeles Kings "home game" (which means 2 less games for fans at Staples Center this year) the crowd was largely pro-Rangers... or more specifically pro-Lundqvist. A Swedish fan asked me if the Kings had any other Europeans besides Anze Kopitar on the team. I said "does Simon Gagne count?"
Either they love Henke Lundqvist or they ran out of space for "We Love Heineken."
Okay, if this is truly a LA Kings home game...
then why in the hell are we playing the NY Rangers Puck Shuffle game?!?
I couldn't tell if this fan was special needs...
or paying tribute to Wayne Gretzky.
In between periods, the hallways were packed with people...
And luckily, everything in Sweden is clearly marked.
Trust me, if these guys were in Vancouver after Game 7...
there would have been ZERO rioting.
The only thing I kept hearing over the 3 days leading into this game was how excited people from all over Europe were to see Anze Kopitar in person. I spent some time before the game talking to two brothers who had grown up in Sweden but their parents were from Slovenia. And all they wanted for this game was Kopitar to score a goal.
And boy, did he score a goal.
One thing I had noticed about the crowd was its overall quietness. I knew that Swedish hockey fans could be loud but during this game the loudest cheers you heard came from obnoxious New Yorkers or pretentious Los Angeleans. A few fans explained to me that even though everyone was there to see Lundqvist, not many fans had a vested interest in either team and a lot of the tickets sold were through corporate connections... which doesn't always lead to the loudest and most invested fans.
Maybe it was because of the quiet crowd or the spherical shape of the arena, but I was able to hear more chatter between the players and coaches on the ice than I've ever heard before. (And, yes, I've sat this close to hockey games before.) Of course, we were in Sweden, and throughout the night they honored several players in attendance such as Mats Sundin, Mattias Norstrom, Markus Naslund and Anders Hedberg.
And Kent Nilsson was the only one up there long enough for me to capture.
"Hey, Martinez, take a look... Kent Nilsson is here!"
"Whatever, wake me when they've got Scott Gomez up there."
Before Overtime had started, I said the two things I hadn't seen in Stockholm were an ugly woman and a LA Kings Power Play goal. Well, Jack Johnson showed the Swedes how we get things done in the USA.
After the game, the crowd poured out onto the plaza outside the Globe, but it quickly dissipated.
Maybe Swedish Idol was on later that night?
So then I met up with some of my new European (and American) pals and we spent the next 3 hours talking Los Angeles Kings hockey non-stop.
There were fans from Sweden, Norway, England, Ireland and the US. And they were all here to see the Kings. I got to meet great Kings fan Horrible Hank (who was showing off his Clifford love) as well as countless others that follow the Kings minute by minute via the internet. They wanted to know what I thought of the Richards trade, what it was like at Staples Center and why haven't the Kings fired Jamie Kompon yet. (I'm not kidding you, these fans knew what was up.) Each one of the European fans were amazed that I would fly so far to see my favorite hockey team. I told them I was more amazed that they were equally as passionate about the Kings halfway across the world. And then I looked over to my right...
You've got to be kidding me.
Eventually, I called it a night since I had to catch a flight to Berlin in the morning. But as I was walking home, I reflected on my night of NHL hockey in Stockholm... and I think I've learned what hockey in Sweden is all about.
THE NEXT MORNING:
I hopped an afternoon flight to Berlin from Stockholm and made a few new friends. I checked into my hotel, took a quick pre-game nap and made my way onto the streets of Berlin in search of my NHL hockey fix. As I approached the O2 World (which sadly is nothing close to a spherical structure) I noticed that the heavens were maybe trying to tell me something about tonights game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Maybe the foreboding clouds were just because Westgarth was in the lineup.
The rain was starting to pour down, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from completing the number 1 entry on my hockey bucket list... to find as many foreign Jean-Luc Grand Pierre jerseys as I could.
When I called the Berlin box office for the O2 World, I was very clear that I did not want the "Premium Ticket" which included all you could eat food and drink before and during the game. But obviously something got lost in translation as when I tried to enter the arena, I was told to go to a different gate.
Well, don't mind if I do.
There was plenty of food choices to carb up before the big game. And there were a couple options available for drinks as well.
And I figured... when in Rome... party like the Romans do.
By eating gigantic bears!!!
As you all know, I'm a man of the people. So even though the spread was great, I ditched the corporate snooze-fest to go hang out with my fellow hockey brethren.
But actually, I was just stalking the German Heidi Androl.
A giant, touchscreen, interactive air hockey game?!?
And you call America a 1st World Country?!?
A coat check at a NHL arena is actually a really good idea.
For people on the East Coast that actually have to wear jackets to games.
But we are in Germany in October, right? I would like a beer and I would like it right now!
Thanks to great Kings fan, Sergi Isasi, for getting me the "American" sized beer.
Even though Germany is the only country keeping the Euro afloat,
they still aren't above a good old fashioned pun.
Enough beer and German pun signs... it was time for warm-ups.
Hey kid... say hi to your Mom for me.
No, really, say hello to her. She and I had a lovely time on the flight over.
Such a sweet lady.
"This arena is pretty sweet. Maybe I'll rent it out for my 22nd birthday party.
Aw, who am I kidding. I'll buy it for my 22nd birthday party."
Don't let anyone tell you that the fans in Germany don't know their history... their LA Kings history that is.
Kyosti Karjalainen played 28 games for the LA Kings.
And this kid has one of his game-worn jerseys.
Okay, so maybe German Kings fans aren't that knowledgeable.
Brad Smyth, former Manchester Monarch and former Hamburg Freezer.
John Tripp, former LA King and current Cologne Shark.
Neal Broten, American Hero and last name that sounds like a German sausage.
As I walked around, I met this young man from Holland wearing a Cloutier jersey. He told me this was not the jersey of Dan Cloutier... but rather the jersey of the player/coach of his team in Holland and brother of Dan, Sylvain Cloutier. He went on and on about how great Sylvain is as a player/coach and that as ill-tempered as people thought Dan was as a player... Sylvain is 20 times more competitive.
NHL Merchandise Stand or European Disco... YOU DECIDE!!!
Each seat in the arena got a NHL Premiere poster.
And I had no idea how good my seats were until I sat down. And they were good.
Notice how the wrap around scoreboard looks reversed in this shot?
That's because it was reflecting in the the glass.
But on the ice... someone had put the NHL Premiere logo filter into the light backwards.
The game got underway and the fans in Germany were much, much louder and involved than the fans in Sweden. Every 5 minutes it seemed there was another chant starting that honored a German born player on the Sabres.
Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I'd hear an "Er-hoff" chant
and not have it be mocking in tone.
But aside from the constant German chanting... the fans at the 02 showed they know how to be just as obnoxious as the Americans can!
I don't know about you... but there is something so awesome
about seeing Terry Murray standing in front of a German flag.
(Even though I'm not sure if that is the German flag.)
"Ugh, I can't believe we flew all this way to play another low-level European club.
Oh... what's that... this is the LA Kings? Oh. My bad."
How embarrassed was AEG that the LA Kings got outplayed badly in their "home" arena?
Halfway through the game they let two kids play NHL 12 on the big screen.
And the offense was more inspired than what the Kings showed.
This Europe trip wasn't so much a bonding experience for the Kings
as it was a European showcase for Anze Kopitar.
After sitting through 2 games in European countries against opponents that featured players from those 2 respective countries... I have a request for the NHL offices. Can the next time the Kings play in Europe, it be in Slovenia?
As I was leaving the building, a Maple Leafs and Sabres fans were in each others face, fighting.
The Maple Leafs fan said "whatever, WHO DOESN'T beat the Kings?!?"
He brings up a really good point, actually.
But I couldn't leave the O2 World without partaking in one of the greatest German hockey traditions...
Trying to piss into a urinal hockey goal.
6027 miles traveled, and 1 unique hockey experience. I've had a total blast in Stockholm and Berlin. I've met people that are incredibly passionate not just about the Kings but also about NHL hockey in general. They are thirsty for any aspect of the game and with the ability to see NHL games in Europe in total doubt right now, we should be thankful back in North America that we get spoiled with NHL coverage. Even if that means Pierre McGuire.
I have no idea what they were chanting... but I'm on board with it.