Toronto Maple Leafs | Photo: NHL
While last weekend Ivars Punnenov and Kristers Gudlevsky “stood on their heads” in Switzerland and Germany, and Kaspars Daugavins shared passes in Slovakia, the real hockey festival was taking place in another part of Europe, with Stockholm hosting four National Hockey League (NHL) games at once. Unfortunately, none of our team made it to Europe this time, which did not stop some Latvian hockey fans from going to Sweden to enjoy world-class hockey.
I meet the first Latvians dressed in NHL club gear not far from the bus station, waiting for the bus to Riga airport. They are mostly some small accessories – a hat or a scarf. Conversations about the NHL can also be heard on the plane and inside it – who bought tickets for what amount, whether it is worth visiting the fan zone and much more. I don’t know exactly how many people from Latvia were in the Stockholm arena, but there could be a few dozen hockey enthusiasts.
In this sense, next year looks a little more promising – according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the matches will take place in Tampere. This significantly increases the chances of seeing the Columbus Blue Jackets represented by Elvya Merzlikin again in this Finnish city, unless the team decides to trade Tampere-born Patrik Laini this season. Or we hope that one of the Latvians will end up in the club with the highest number of bags. This season they are the Dallas Stars and the Florida Panthers who are playing this season Uvis Balinskis.
Hockey under the dome
Formerly known as the ‘Globen’ arena, it now bears the ‘Avicii’ name. That was the pseudonym of the Swede Tim Berling. He was one of the world’s most famous DJs, who unfortunately tragically lost his life at the age of 28. The highlight of this arena is the dome, which until this year was the largest in the world. Now the leadership has been “taken over” by the dome in Las Vegas, also becoming one of the goals of the NHL, where to play a game.
According to the spectator’s experience, this is one of the most comfortable arenas he has ever been in. In the first game, however, I occasionally catch myself thinking that I can’t tear myself away from watching the dome, because in this sense the arena is really unusual. Visibility from all places seems to be perfect and also, unlike Tampere, everything is conveniently organized, you don’t have to stand in line for food for the whole break and half of the period.
One significant thing – it took about two minutes to get out from the second floor, considering that I was in the same flow with the fans. There were no queues at the exit, people gathered in large crowds only at the nearest metro station. The only inconvenience for fans could be the ban on bringing any bags, except in a few cases. It will be the same at the U20 World Championship in Gothenburg.
Both with beer and champagne
In recent years, one of the most discussed topics regarding the world championships is not the content of the game, but the prices in the arena. So here’s a little insight into how much it would cost you to not just watch hockey, but also have something to drink or eat in between. I could not help but add that the prices are roughly at the level of the last world championships, with the correction for the fact that it is Sweden.
So, a beer would cost you 88 kroner, while a glass of wine would cost you 126 kroner. A set of food (hotdogs, popcorn and the like) plus a drink cost between 100 and 130 kroner. On the other hand, if you would like a memento from the event – either with the “Global Series” or with the logo of your favorite team, then you would have to part with the following amounts of money – a puck – 130 crowns, a cap – 370 crowns, a sweater – 800 crowns, but jersey – 1400 crowns.
Hockey on the field, entertainment outside
Unlike Prague, where some of the action took place outside, in Stockholm, hockey fans didn’t have to freeze to try out the rink. This is largely due to the construction of the Avicii Arena, as there is quite a lot of free space. You also didn’t have to stand in long lines outside for the paraphernalia, because in Stockholm it was thought of, and everything went quite smoothly in the places where it was sold. I also liked the atmosphere much more compared to the same world championship.
Before the games and during breaks, it was possible to visit the shooting range, the Stanley Cup was also brought to the Swedish capital, where anyone who wanted to could take a photo. Autograph sessions were also held. The longest line was, of course, to get Nylander’s autograph. If you didn’t know, you might think that a world-class rock star was performing in Stockholm that day – so long was the line of people who were ready to wait for the autograph of the “Maple Leafs” player even in sub-zero temperatures.
As strange as it sounds, football fans were not spared either. After one of the games, near the arena, I noticed a person selling flags of football giants for 100 crowns. Why not bring a Barcelona flag from the Global Series matches in Stockholm as a souvenir, right?
Games based on the “screenplay” of Batman
Already after the first game, you could read comments about the fact that Batman himself almost wrote the script for how the games will be played in Sweden, because the best that the league has has to be demonstrated! And try to prove to the person that “Red Wings” coming back from 0:4 is a normal phenomenon, and not trying to please the audience as much as possible. And what should it look like – Batman walking into the Senators locker room and saying they should slow down now?
The same goes for Game 2, when the Maple Leafs, trailing 0-2 against the Red Wings, broke through in the third period with three straight shutouts to pull out the win. And just now the skeptics were silenced a little, when in the last game “Wild” came back from 1:3 and reached a draw, but in extra time “Maple Leafs” still took a point. And who scored? Of course, the biggest favorite of the local audience, William Nylander! And how can you not believe the talks about the fact that everything was arranged in advance? (this is a joke of course)
A view from Spain on Shilow’s prospects in Vancouver
Before one of the games, I happened to run into a journalist who was born in Vancouver but has been living in Madrid for some time and produces content in Spanish for NHL resources. When he heard that I was from Latvia, he immediately named all our hockey players in the NHL, first, of course, mentioning Teodor Bļuger, continuing with Zemga Girgensons, then with “that young guy from Florida, unfortunately I don’t remember his last name”, and finally with Elvi Merzlikin .
While my mouth was free from such in-depth knowledge of the interlocutor about Latvian hockey, he praised Bļuger as a very useful and versatile player, and also expressed the opinion that it will be very difficult for Artūrs Šilov to break through to the Canucks, because Thatchers Demko is playing simply fantastic this season.
“Maple Leafs” – the most popular team
As I already mentioned, Nylander was by far the biggest favorite of the local audience, and it was he who received the biggest ovation when the announcer presented the teams’ starting lineups. I myself enjoyed the opportunity to observe the performance of such a player in person, the “Maple Leafs” striker pleased the local fans with good results, collecting five (2+3) points in two games.
Overall, it looks like the Toronto club had the most fans in the arena. And it wasn’t just people who come to Stockholm from Toronto, because there were also hockey enthusiasts. Not to mention the prices – a flight from Toronto to Stockholm with a short layover (there are no direct flights between these cities) takes about ten hours, and it is thought that not every fan who also has the financial opportunity would think of making such a journey to follow their team.
The Maple Leafs are also popular in Sweden, and I assume in other parts of Europe, as this is one of the most popular, if not the most popular hockey club in the world. Of course, there were a lot of people in the stands wearing Nylander’s jerseys, as well as people dressed in the form of Matthews, Marner and other “Maple Leafs” stars. In general, Stockholm looked like a “little Canada” these days – so pronounced was the dominance of Toronto fans, and Canadian flags were also visible in the stands from time to time.
It’s not just about games. I live about a 30-minute drive from the arena myself, and there were both Maple Leafs and other fans at my hotel. Not to mention the city center, which was overflowing with hockey fans. In Tampere it was, but not to the extent it was in Stockholm.
NHL Global Series games in Sweden
November 16 Ottawa Senators – Detroit Red Wings 5:4 PL
November 17 Detroit Red Wings – Toronto Maple Leafs 2:3
November 18 Ottawa Senators – Minnesota Wild 2:1 PM
November 19 Minnesota Wild – Toronto Maple Leafs 3:4 PL
A beautiful end to the NHL tour in Stockholm – Nylander brings the “Maple Leafs” victory in front of his fans