My Swedish obsession, that is. Henrik Lundqvist, bless his frighteningly talented heart, is not the first "rookie from Sweden" to capture my attention. No, that distinction belongs to former Ranger (and former Capital, former Shark, and former NorthStar/Star...) Ulf Dahlen. I'm blowing a lot of dust off the old memory banks to write this entry, but it seems to me that I was captivated by his talent and enthusiasm. The man was always grinning. (Think of a Nordic Petr Prucha). Of course the fact that I was about 15 virtually guaranteed the fact that I would have a stupid teenage crush on him. But that aside.... I followed him after he was traded to Minnesota, at that time still the NorthStars. Of course, when I went into hockey oblivion and the Rangers had their best season, he also had several fantastic seasons. Figures.
Anyway, I was then the type of person I still am now; fascinated with learning about other countries and cultures, and I developed sort of a fondness for Sweden. Combine that with my soft spot for goalies, and my ears perked up at the beginning of last season when I heard about the Rangers new backup goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. We all know how that story ended, King Henrik rides into New York City on a white horse and sweeps the entire Garden off their feet and has them chanting his name in a few short weeks, igniting hope of playoff games to come, if we dared hope that much, snatching up an Olympic gold medal on his way..... until he was a complete idiot and waited several days to reveal that he was hurt and it was bye bye season, bye bye Rangers....
Oops. Sorry about the rant. Naturally, my curious nature lead me to read about his career in Sweden, which in turn lead to the discovery that his twin brother was still playing over there. Around the same time, I struck up an online friendship with a woman from Sweden who is also a big hockey fan, and before I knew it, I was logging on to the Elitserien website each day to look for scores and try to pick apart articles, which is really quite difficult without a Swedish dictionary. Of course I followed Frölunda, but because my new friend Ina was an HV71 fan, I had half an eye on them as well.
Funny how things come full circle. My first hockey favorite, Ulf Dahlen, has taken an assistant coaching job with the Dallas Stars. Now, there's no guarantee he'll make the team, but there could be a new "rookie from Sweden" for Dahlen to pass the torch to this year: Joel Lundqvist.