Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stockholm Retrospective

-I had camera difficulties on the recent trip to Sweden, so I don't have a lot of photos to share right now. Some of my traveling buddies from the off-ice crew have promised to share some shots when they can. I'll have more images when that happens. So I'll give some quick memories of my wonderful hockey journey of September 29-October 4.

-Tue. Sep. 29-Flight out of St. Louis delayed. Arrived Newark late. Saw Manhattan and Statue of Liberty on approach. Had to hustle to connecting flight. Barely got on in time. Plane full of Blues fans taking the team-sponsored package trip. Took off at Newark on time...around 5:30.

-Wed Sep. 30-Flew all night...8-1/2 hrs air time. Arrived Stockholm at dawn. Beautiful sunrise over lake and waterway-filled landscape of eastern Sweden. Touched down around 7am local time. Arlanda airport amazingly clean and mall with planes. Caught NHL-provided small bus to Clarion hotel about 20 miles away in Stockholm. Checked into Clarion..(NHL and RedWings HQ's) rested most of the rest of day. In evening walked with StL/Det off-ice official crew to Old Town section of Stockholm about 2 miles from hotel. Beautifully-kept, old multi-story buildings separated by narrow, cobblestone streets. Post-card material. Many shops and restaurants. Dinner at Rodolfino Italian-style restaurant. Not sure what Swedish food is at this point. Pasta and wine...good not so much. Walked back to hotel enjoying the beautiful evening, sights, people. A beer with the off-ice crew and off to bed.

-Thu Oct. 1- Breakfast at all-inclusive hotel buffet. Usual eggs and pancakes etc. for North-Americans. Buffet includes Swedish breakfast items like lunch meat, berry sauce, milk for coffee-not cream. Bought 3-day pass for light-rail train system. Two stops from hotel to Globe Arena(pic). Rode there from stop at hotel with off-ice crew. Met Martin McCreary, director of NHL game entertainment and Stockholm show, at arena. Rest of day spent writing script for Fri/Sat games. Evening rehearsals...pre-game shows including anthem, player intros etc. Met Josefin Glenmark(pic)--Swedish singing star who will sing anthems. Made friends as she asks for advice on anthem lyrics from "American announcer guy". Met Nicklas Wikegard...former star hockey player and coach in TV guy who will host in-arena pre-game and between periods talk segments. After rehearsals..around 10 local time...walked alone back to train platform. Boarded wrong off at wrong back on wrong further lost...finally asked for help at train back to hotel around 11. This isn't StL MetroLink. Wshew! Straight to bed.

-Fri Oct. 2- Breakfast at hotel again. Rest of morning spent exploring...walking in bustling neighborhood surrounding hotel. Lots of shops, restaurants--including McD's, Subway, as in U.S. Sporting goods stores feature hockey jerseys..mostly RedWings..occasional Blues. NHL games very big item in local papers and on TV. Amazed at number of beautiful people. Being fat is apparently not an option in Stockholm. Bike lanes on most streets. Arrived Globe Arena around 3. Game-time 9pm local time. Pre-game show band Backyard Babies (once big in Sweden) is rehearsing. Review script and make last-minute changes with Martin. Ready to go. Pre-game show goes well. Game on. Sea of red for Wings...patch of Blue, but a noisy one, for Blues. Blues stun Wings in comeback 4-3. Local fans not happy...7-8 Swedes on Wings. Berglund and Steen, sort-of, for Blues. Join Tim Pabst (Fox Sports producer/director) and Carl Middleman (K-Hits radio and Blues music guy who paid his own way to Sweden and was put to work by Martin) for "one beer" at hotel bar. 3 hours later, after seemingly meeting everyone in the bar, half of the NHL New York office staff, and getting an introduction to the preferred brand of tequila in Sweden, foggy head hits pillow. Very long...but very special day.

-Sat. Oct 3- Alarm goes off at 7:30...7:30? Oh yeah..supposed to go sight-seeing with Brian Varady, Ralph Snedeker, and Tim Johnson...St. Louis off-ice officials who didn't hit the bar last night. Pulled myself out somehow. Breakfast in hotel. Lots of coffee. Jump on light rail to head for Vasa museum...major tourist attraction in Stockholm. Sailing ship sunk in Stockholm harbor in 1628. Stayed in harbor mud for 3-plus centuries. Relic raised in 1962. Re-constructed with museum built around it. Fascinating. More info here. Walked several miles to and from museum. Beautiful area--Djurgarden--one of the islands that makes up the Stockholm metro. Returned to hotel early afternoon. 2-hour nap. Raining. Wet walk from train to Arena. Arrived Globe Arena around 4:30. Pre-game band-Bullet-(AC/DC knock off) rehearsing. All is ready to go after good show Friday night. Pre-game show goes perfectly again. Great job by Josefin on the anthems. I introduce Mats Sundin who announced retirement previous week. The Swedish national hero gets thunderous ovation and drops ceremonial puck. Game on. Blues fall behind early...Uh oh. Wings out for revenge. Blues come back for 5-3 stunner. Tkachuk scores twice. I decide to go for standard Keith Kaaaaaaaaachuuuuuuuuk goal announcement. Explain to Martin on headset that Blues fans would not let me hear the end of it if I didn't. He understands. Local fans disappointed again. After game..."one beer" again at bar. Bartender offers tequila shot on-the-house. I ask why. He says.."you leave me too big tip last night." Hmmm...I got to know the bartender last night?. OK. Great conversations with Martin McCreary (who was my boss until now...becomes life-long friend), locals, NHL people, TV production crew, Matt Langen of NHLPA, and more. Glad I stayed up. Bed at 4:30.

-Sun Oct. 4- NHL bus to airport at 6:15. Ugh. Check-in and customs. Boarding at 8:30. Spoke to Blues owners Dave Checketts, Mike McCarthy and wives at gate. They'll be on same plane. Nice words from them. Checketts, one of first to board, stands at front of plane and thanks Blues fans as they get on. Classy. Plane on time. Good-bye Stockholm. Will I ever see you again? Lots of off-and-on sleep on plane. Customs and connecting flight at Newark. Say goodbye to many NHL New York-area and Detroit off-ice crew friends that were made on trip. Arrive back in St. Louis 4pm (Central). Thank you NHL for the invitation...and the forever memories. Jet lag, and return to normal life, here we come. Stockholm was wonderful...but as Dorothy said...