You can go home again

Children have their first idols close. The first ones are their parents and siblings, and then when the venture outside of the house, the cool (bigger) kids at school and sports teams, and naturally, for hockey playing kids in Europe, the players on their hometown teams and then the national team and NHL stars, although things have changed somewhat in the 21st century, with the access to NHL games having gotten better. Even then, often children idols are NHLers that come from the same country as them.

No wonder then that Anders Engqvist, a big, lanky kid who lived five minutes from the rink in a northern Stockholm suburb found an idol who also was a big, lanky kid from a northern Stockholm suburb. Also a right-hand shot, who had also started his career elsewhere but ended up in Djurgarden, one of the oldest hockey clubs in Sweden.

That they’re both right-hand shots and centers also made the comparison between them almost too easy to draw when Engqvist was coming up the ranks. That’s how a local scout described him to Djurgarden and maybe that’s why he had turned down a contract offer from AIK, the other big club in Stockholm.

Of course, by the time Engqvist made his men’s league debut with Spanga in Division 2 in 2003, Sundin had been the Toronto Maple Leafs captain for six years, and had won three World Championship titles with Team Sweden.

Four years after having signed with Djurgarden – or seven years ago – Engqvist led the team in playoff scoring with 13 points in 16 games as they went all the way to the final. They lost to HV71 in six games but five of the six games were decided in overtime. After the season Engqvist followed in Sundin’s footsteps, and left for the NHL when he signed with the Montreal Canadiens.

Since then, he’s played for five different teams in the NHL, the AHL, and the KHL, but now he’s back.

Home.

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Do the unna

There I was, leaning against a construction site wall, looking out to Sergels Torg, the heart of Stockholm’s downtown. That’s the location of the main subway station and the commuter station hub, with a tunnel connecting it to the main train station. It’s also the place for markets and on most days, demonstrations of all sizes and for all causes.

Right behind me on the wall, there was a gigantic H&M logo and in front of me, a stage where a band was playing Swedish pop. All around me, there were blue-and-yellow flags, and faces and wigs, also blue-and-yellow, as Stockholmians got ready to celebrate the nation’s beloved hockey team, Tre Kronor, the national team that had won the world championship the night before.

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Robin Hood lives

By the time I was driving down the M1 between Leeds and Nottingham, I was pretty comfortable driving on the left side of the road, and passing others on their right. That’s exactly what I was doing – driving on the farthest lane to the right – as we approached Nottingham, and I saw a brown sign by the side of the road.

It said, “Sherwood Forest”.

I looked at Wife (my co-pilot, to my left).

“What do you think? Shall we?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. You?”

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Upside down and looking daft

Often, when I see street artists, and every time I see artists that do things that completely surprise me, I try to think of how they get ready for another day’s work.

How the large man in Cologne gets up, checks his water bottles, fills them up with fresh, clean, pure water, and then takes the bus to the shopping street next to the cathedral and entertains people by drinking up all the water, a few liters at a time, only to then somehow get it all up and become a human water fountain.

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John, Paul, and Risto

Today, the world looks a little sunnier. The colors are a little brighter and the sky a little bluer, and I feel peaceful. The reason for that is that I’m sitting on a hotel bed in Liverpool, England, wearing my new £3 John Lennon styled yellow-tinted sunglasses.

Liverpool was a household name in our household thanks to the Beatles, and Kevin Keegan, Liverpool FC’s (and England’s) small but skilled midfielder with a big hair. While I liked the Beatles a lot, it was a Kevin Keegan magazine clipping I had on the wall. “Don’t let success get to you head,” he advised me.

But obviously, I’m not doing “bed peace” because of Keegan. It’s just that the the city and the Beatles Story exhibition rekindled my love and admiration for the Beatles, the greatest band ever.

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Sister, sister

Back when Wife and I had just met, and before we lived a walking distance from each other but in our own apartments, and before we had started to regularly spend the nights together in either one of them, it sometimes happened that Wife would leave my place in the evening and sleep at her sister’s place two subway stops down the red line.

One such time, when Wife and I saw each other the next morning at the office, and as we recapped our evenings, she, for a reason I can’t remember anymore, said casually that “she only has hard bread”. Meaning the Swedish knäckebröd, or crispbread, a flat and crisp rye bread.

“Oh,” I said, while making a mental note to always have fresh bread at home when Wife would visit.

“But I like crispbread,” she added, and I made a note of that, too.

I was definitely going to stock up on the knäckebröd as well. (But I was also going to make sure that as long as Wife was hanging out with me, she’d always – always – have soft bread to eat).

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Forever young

Now, if I may say so myself, Im a pretty youthful guy. I have a long hair, and I wear the same clothes I’ve worn since my twenties, and I understand if that creeps you out, dear reader, but that’s the way I am. At some point in my life, in my teens, I became a jeans and a T-shirt kind of guy, and that’s just what I’ve been ever since. (With one minor but important change about 17 years ago when I stopped using socks).

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King Salming’s 1000 games

Every journey to 1,000 games begins with, well, the first game.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Borje Salming became the first European to play 1,000 NHL games on Jan. 4, 1988, against the Vancouver Canucks. But when he made his NHL debut on Oct. 10, 1973, he wasn’t the first European-trained player, nor was he even the first Swedish defenseman in the League. Forward Ulf Sterner played four games for the New York Rangers in 1965 and defenseman Thommie Bergman made his NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 7, 1972.

Börje turned 38 during the 1989 World Championships in Stockholm and his teammates surprised him with a cake in the face.

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