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Nicklas Backstrom

\ A couple of quick facts that didn’t get in the story: 1. Magnus told me that his news agency staffs almost every Brynas road game in the Elite League, and 2. I asked the TV guys to rank the Swedish players based on their popularity back home. They said Forsberg is unquestionably at the top, Henrik Lundqvist has rapidly ascended to No. 2 ahead of Henrik Zetterberg, while Mats Sundin and Nicklas Lidstrom are probably about the same behind those three.\

\ From Magnus Hagerborn, a writer from Nicklas’ hometown of Gavle:\ \ \ “You have to say that [he is a hometown hero]. He is very popular and we have written so much about him. He played two full seasons in the Elite League and last year there was great hype.”\ \ \ “I first heard about him myself when he was in juniors because he was the son of Anders, who won the championship with Brynas in 1980. I knew him first from that.”\ \ \ “It was not until he made it through to the first team [the big club for Brynas] that we started to really cover him. That’s when we understood that this guy was special.”\ \ \ From Henrik Ek, a freelance writer who lives in New York:\ \ \ “In Sweden hockey is the No. 2 sport. Even though it is the second-biggest sport, there is not as much media, not as many people come to the games. For us to be here, we go, ‘Oh, this is huge.’ “\ \ \ “Magnus has his blog, and the interest in Nicklas is huge. It is hard for daily newspapers because it is really the day after.”\ \ \ “He was pretty shy with us [at first] too. He seems to be more comfortable with us when we talk about stuff that he knows won’t be in the paper, like a normal conversation between two people. When he knows he is going to be quoted it is a little different.”\ \ \ On whether the guarded nature comes from his father, as a former player, teaching him how to act with the media:\ \ \ “I don’t think so because his father is much more open and outspoken. His brother [Kristoffer, who plays professionally in Sweden] is too.\ \ \ “Last year started really well. He was the scoring leader for quite some time and then after the junior championships, his play went down a little. Maybe it was the pressure [from the WJC].\ \ \ “I think he is a player who needs to feel comfortable - when he has control over everything and knows what is going to happen.\ \ \ “Michael [Nylander] is great. I had a lot to do with him last year when he was in New York, and he is a great guy. He did one of his best seasons last year, so people in Sweden are excited about him too. He was 35 years old and had his best season, so people want to know more about him too.”\ \ \ “It is also exciting to have two Swedish players on the same line. We have that in Detroit and Vancouver, too.”\ \ \ And finally, from Backstrom, who I don’t think understood that this was going to be a light-hearted story and was pretty serious with every answer:\ \ \ “I think it is just going to be in the beginning for the first couple of games, so I try not to think about it. I just want to play and if they want to come here and right about, that is fine.”\ \ \ On whether or not he heard from anybody back home after the season opener was broadcast live in the early morning hours (a fact that I should have had in the story, but forgot):\ \ \ “The game [Friday] was on TV, so a couple of guys called me and said they saw me on the TV, but just friends.”\

\ — Corey Masisak

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